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What is Diabetes?

Download What is Diabetes? pdf document (277k) handout.

Diabetes happens when the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use it well. This causes glucose to build up in the blood. As a result, the body does not function well.

Know your body

  • The food we eat goes to the stomach, where it is digested. The food is turned into blood glucose in the body. Blood glucose is also called blood sugar. The body uses glucose to provide energy needed for daily life.
  • The blood takes the glucose to the cells where it is turned into energy. However, glucose cannot enter the cells alone; it needs help. Insulin helps the glucose enter the cells. Insulin is a hormone that is made in the pancreas.
  • If the body does not produce enough insulin, or if the cells cannot use the insulin well, then the glucose cannot enter the cells and it builds up in the blood.
  • People who have high levels of glucose in their blood have prediabetes or diabetes.

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Information on this page is taken from the English print version of “Healthy Heart, Healthy Family: A Community Health Worker's Manual.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, NIH Publication No. 08-3674, Originally Printed 1999, Revised May 2008.

Last Updated March 2012

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