A healthy immune system helps resist infections. People with diabetes type I have an autoimmune disorder that causes their systems to misidentify and destroy the pancreatic cells that produce hormones needed to process and regulate blood sugar levels. This leads to high blood glucose and increases the risk of heart disease and other serious illnesses. Diabetes type 2 is mostly known as a metabolic disorder, although recent studies suggest it may have an autoimmune component as well. Diabetes type 2 is also characterized by higher-than-normal glucose levels. People with type 2 diabetes can sometimes control their disease with diet and exercise, but those with type 1 diabetes require regular insulin injections.
If a blood test shows that a person's blood sugar is higher than 200 mg/dl without fasting, or greater than 126 mg/dl while fasting for at least eight hours, a doctor is likely to pursue a diabetes diagnosis. Even high blood sugar that does not reach this level could indicate a person with pre-diabetes. These individuals should be diagnosed so they can begin taking preventative steps to prevent full-blown diabetes.
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