Diabetes is far from simple. While it’s typically categorized as a chronic disease in which there’s too much sugar in the blood, there are three primary kinds.

  • Type 1 diabetes (juvenile) – Juvenile diabetes can occur at any age, but is most commonly diagnosed in children, teens and young adults. In this type, the pancreas produces little or no insulin so your liver, muscle and fat tissue can’t process glucose from the blood, leading to dangerous blood sugar fluctuations.
  • Type 2 diabetes (adult-onset) – While it most often occurs in adulthood, teens and young adults are being diagnosed with it, due in part to obesity. With Type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin or, in some cases, stops producing it. The signs for this type (including fatigue, weight loss, blurred vision and increased thirst) develop slowly and are often overlooked.
  • Gestational diabetes – Developed during pregnancy by a woman without a prior history of diabetes. Pregnancy hormones can interfere with insulin and when this happens, blood glucose levels rise too high, causing gestational diabetes.

The genetic and environmental risk for each type varies.There are genetic components for Type 2 diabetes, and for related contributing factors like high cholesterol levels and blood pressure. There are a few factors out of your control, such as age, race and gender. Fortunately, you can turn around many lifestyle factors that contribute to the disease (such as smoking, unhealthy eating and physical activity). Gestational diabetes is also related to obesity and ethnicity, as well as genetic history, but many women who develop it have no known risk factors. For Type 1 diabetes, the strongest risk factor is having two copies of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes. Environment may play a role as well, but the specific triggers are currently unknown.If someone in your family has or had diabetes…

  • Find out: If it’s juvenile or adult-onset; age of onset; complications; history of obesity or other conditions and complications.
  • Keep in mind: If your mother had type 1 diabetes and gave birth to you before she was 25, your risk is 1 in 25; it is 1 in 100 if she gave birth to you after 25. If your parent had type 2 diabetes before age 50, your risk of getting diabetes is 1 in 7 (1 in 13 if you were diagnosed after age 50).
  • Take a simple step: Concentrate on keeping your Body Mass Index (BMI) within a healthy range to help prevent gestational and Type 2 diabetes or control Type 1 diabetes. For women, a healthy BMI should range between 18.5-24.9.

QUIZ: Check Your BMI