Diabetes | Types and Risk Factors

diabetes types and risk factors test glucose levels and high blood sugar at Fish and Field Biokineticists in Bryanston Johannesburg

An overview of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main sugar found in your blood. It comes from the food you eat, and is your body’s main source of energy. Your blood carries glucose to all of your body’s cells to use for energy. High blood sugar is abnormally high blood glucose (blood sugar) in the blood. This is known to be the hallmark sign of a metabolic condition known as Diabetes.

What is high blood sugar?

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease characterized by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin that results in hyperglycemia (i.e. high blood sugar). In order to characterize Diabetes, one first needs to know what defines a high blood sugar (blood glucose). The current diagnostic consensus is that anyone with a fasting blood glucose > 125 mg/dl, a random glucose of >200 mg/dl with hyperglycemia symptoms (i.e. increased thirst and a frequent need to urinate), or a 2 h glucose of > 200 mg/dl during an oral glucose tolerance test has diabetes.

Types of Diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes (i.e. type 1 and type 2). Both types of diabetes are chronic diseases that affect the way your body regulates blood sugar, or glucose. Glucose is the fuel that feeds your body’s cells, but to enter your cells it needs a key. Insulin is that key. People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin. You can think of it as not having a key. People with type 2 diabetes don’t respond to insulin as well as they should and later in the disease often don’t make enough insulin. You can think of this as having a broken key. Both types of diabetes can lead to chronically high blood sugar levels that increase the risk of diabetes complications.

Risks of being Diabetic

1). Microvascular complications (i.e. retinopathy and nephropathy).

2). Macrovascular complications (i.e. Myocardial Infarction and Cerebrovascular Accidents)

3). Neuropathies (i.e. autonomic and peripheral) e.g. silent ischemia

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes is an absolute deficiency of insulin which is caused by a reduction in insulin-secreting (beta) cells of the pancreas. Exogenous insulin must be supplied (by injection or pump – “continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion therapy”). Type 1 Diabetes also makes one prone to developing what is called ketoacidosis which is when ketone bodies are formed by the breakdown of fatty acids and the deamination of amino acids. 5 – 10 % of people in USA have type 1 Diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes is a relative deficiency of insulin where one can have an increased/decreased/normal insulin levels (i.e. insulin therapy may not be required). One of the hallmark signs is that it always presents with hyperglycemia.Type 2 diabetes is caused by the following:

a). Genetics

b). Environment

c). Insulin abnormalities

d). Increased glucose production in liver

e). Increased fat breakdown

f). Defective hormone secretions in intestine

Risk factors

  • Overweight and obesity
  • Older age
  • Inactivity
  • Family history
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Race

In type 2 diabetes, beta cells in pancreas can become exhausted over time, however there is no ketoacidosis as in type 1 diabetes. There are also usually no signs or symptoms thus it is only diagnosed when organ damage has occurred. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs after the age of 40, however obesity and inactivity is increasing in younger individuals. Type 2 diabetes affects 90-95% of diabetics in USA.

Find out in our next article on what can be done to treat this condition or Contact Us.




Durstine, J.L., Moore, G.E. & Painter, P.L., 2016. ACSMs exercise management for persons with chronic diseases and disabilities, Human Kinetics.

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