Understanding the Basics of Diabetes

Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States and 5th in Putnam County, Florida. 34.2 million Americans have diabetes (CDC, 2018) and 88 million American adults have prediabetes – that’s 1 in 3 adults. In Florida, over 2.5 million people have diabetes; 5.8 million have been diagnosed with prediabetes (2019 FL DAC Report). 22.1% of Putnam County adults diagnosed with diabetes and 10.5% have prediabetes (Florida CHARTS, 2016). Diabetes comes with series complications: increased risk for heart disease and stroke, it is the leading cause of kidney failure, nervous system disease, and nontraumatic lower-limb amputations (American Diabetes Association, 2020).

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a condition when your pancreas doesn’t produce the insulin your body needs. Insulin acts as a key to allow your blood sugar (which comes from the foods you eat) to enter your body’s cells and be used as energy. There is no action you can take to prevent Type 1 diabetes; however, it can be managed.

Type 2 Diabetes

In Type 2 diabetics, the body does not make or use insulin properly. When this occurs, sugar builds up in the bloodstream instead of being moved into the cells and used as energy. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented with lifestyle changes including eating healthier and increasing activity.


Prediabetes is when your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not quite high enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes may occur when certain hormones “block the action of the mother’s insulin to her body and it causes a problem called insulin resistance” (American Diabetes Association, 2020). Maintaining a healthy weight and including exercise in your daily routine is key to managing Gestational diabetes. To read more, visit https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/gestational-diabetes.

Living with Type 2 Diabetes

Moving more and making healthy choices can help you manage your blood sugar.

  • Moving More – Including daily physical activity has several benefits including its’ effectiveness in lowering blood sugar. It also helps to improve mood, your ability to manage stress, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and lowers your risk of heart attack and stroke. Read more here.
  • Making Healthy Choices – The Diabetes Plate Method is a helpful tool to planning out your meals. Using a 9-inch plate, include the following to create your meal:
    • ¼ of the plate: grain or starchy food
    • ¼ of the plate: lean protein
    • ½ of the plate: non-starchy vegetables

Find out more about the Diabetes Plate Method, grains and starchy foods, what is considered a lean protein, and a list of non-starchy vegetables here from the American Diabetes Association.

Carb Counting is another strategy to make healthy choices when living with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes. To find out how many carbohydrates you need, it is best to make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian to determine your specific needs. Carb counting is a way for you to “count carbs to match your insulin dose to the amount of carbs in your foods and drinks” (CDC, 2019).

Keep in mind these additional guidelines to making healthier choices:

  • Portion sizes
  • Cooking method
  • Drinks count, too
  • Include a variety of foods
  • Space your meals appropriately

Regardless of the type of diabetes, practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors are key to maintaining good health. For more information on local diabetes related programs, email wendyw74@ufl.edu or call 386-328-0318

Additional Resources


Posted: November 11, 2020

Category: Health & Nutrition, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Diabetes, Healthy Lifestyle, Prediabetes, Putnam County, Wendylynch

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