Diabetes

Insulin Makes the (Diabetic’s) World Go ‘Round: The Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a word that is commonly used synonymously. However, there are actually two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.

Even though they might share the same name, they have many differences that make them almost completely different diagnoses. Before I get into the differences between the two, I must explain the key player in the diabetes management team… INSULIN!

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by your pancreas. When you eat a meal, your food gets broken down into sugar (or the scientific name, glucose) and absorbed into your bloodstream. When the pancreas is working properly, insulin is released into the bloodstream after this breakdown occurs and it immediately goes searching for the sugar (insulin loves sugar!) It then acts as the key that unlocks the door to your cell’s fuel center and allows your body to use the sugar from your meal for useful energy. This helps maintain blood sugar levels and provides your body with the necessary energy needed for healthy brain and body function.

Diabetes is formed due to the lack of or the inability to utilize insulin. But, have no fear! Thanks to our friend Frederick Banting (the Canadian physician who founded insulin), individuals who are diagnosed with either type of diabetes are still able to receive insulin therapy and live healthy, normal lifestyles.

Now that we had a little science lesson on the importance of insulin, let’s move on to the two different types of diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is commonly known as insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, meaning the body makes too little or no insulin at all.

What does this mean for your cells? It means your body doesn’t have the proper lock and key system to provide your cells with the energy it needs to survive. This can lead to a traffic jam of piled up glucose in your bloodstream with no place to go. This can cause blood sugar levels to rise and many complications to occur.

Currently, there is no cure for T1D. It is looked at as an autoimmune disease, but it is possible that environmental or genetic factors could also play a role in the diagnosis. Over the years, improvements in technology have allowed for better diabetes management and care. Insulin injections and insulin pumps are two types of treatments that help to better regulate blood sugars and provide the body with the necessary energy it needs survive.

Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) is known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, meaning the body cannot use the insulin it produces effectively.

What does this mean for your cells? This means the body initially produces more insulin due to increased demands but then can’t keep up with the demands. The consequence of the increased production of insulin results in insulin going on strike. This could also lead to an increase in blood sugar levels and result in complications such as neuropathy and poor circulation in feet, blindness, and increased risk for heart disease.

T2D is the most common form of diabetes and is curable. Risk factors for developing T2D are central obesity, family history, unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, hypertension, and high cholesterol. Behavioral modification is the main treatment plan, including a change in diet, exercise, and weight loss. Oral medicines and insulin injections may also be key components for healthy diabetes management.

Exercise can be a key regulator in blood sugar levels and healthy diabetes management for both T1D and T2D. According to the American Diabetes Association, it’s recommended for an individual living with diabetes to complete 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, along with 3 days of strength training each week to increase insulin effectiveness and maintain blood sugar levels within normal ranges.

As physical therapists, we can provide individuals with an effective, safe exercise regimen that is tendered to the individual’s specific goals and interests. Exercise programs with the main goal consisting of weight management, stress reduction, overall muscular and aerobic strengthening, can have a tremendous effect on the individual’s physiological and psychological well-being. We also provide the individual with proper education by emphasizing the benefits of exercise. This could result in a reduction of further complications, improvement in management, and a decrease in healthcare cost.

We can be the encourager they need to help them take control of their lives and fight back against diabetes.

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