Diabetes Terms

Key Words

A1c / HbA1c: The A1c test, sometimes known as HbA1c, determines the average blood glucose levels over the past three months. The results are measured in % and the aim is for the A1c reading to be less than 7 % to reduce the risk of complications.

Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood are too high. Blood glucose levels are normally regulated by the hormone insulin, which is made by the pancreas. Diabetes occurs when there is a problem with this hormone and how it works in the body.

Complications screening occurs approximately yearly for most individuals with diabetes who attend diabetes specialist clinics.  Complication screening includes fasting blood tests, checking for circulatory and sensory problems in legs and feet, kidney problems, eye problems, blood pressure (BP) (lying, sitting and standing), waist and hip measurements, plus history of hospitalisations, symptoms of diabetes complications and medication changes.

Fibre: Fibre helps to lower cholesterol levels, prevents certain cancers (especially bowel cancer), gives a feeling of fullness or satisfaction for longer and helps to control blood glucose levels.

Glucose in the body

The body uses glucose as its main source of energy. Glucose comes from foods that contain carbohydrates, such as potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, fruit and milk. After food is digested, the glucose is released and absorbed into the bloodstream.

The glucose in the bloodstream needs to move into body tissues so that cells can use it for energy. Excess glucose is also stored in the liver, or converted to fat and stored in other body tissues.

Glycemic Index (GI): A ranking of the rate at which carbohydrate is broken down and released as glucose into the blood stream.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, which is a gland located just below the stomach. Insulin opens the doors (the glucose channels) that let glucose move from the blood into the body cells. It also allows glucose to be stored in muscle, the liver and other tissues. This is part of a process known as glucose metabolism.

In diabetes, either the pancreas can’t make insulin (type 1 diabetes), or the cells don’t respond to the insulin properly (insulin resistance) and the pancreas produces inadequate insulin for the body’s increased needs (type 2 diabetes).

Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance is where insulin becomes less effective at lowering blood glucose levels. If the insulin cannot do its job, the glucose channels cannot open properly. Glucose builds up in the blood instead of getting into cells for energy. High blood glucose levels cause the health problems linked to diabetes, often referred to as complications.

A contributing factor to insulin resistance is fat found around the internal organs including the liver - this is called visceral fat. Some people with insulin resistance can look very lean, but they still may have visceral fat. Another contributor to insulin resistance is insufficient physical activity.

Physical activity: The combination of planned exercise, such as a walk in the park or playing tennis, and incidental activity, such as parking your car further away from the shop, or taking the stairs.

Progression: Type 2 diabetes is known as a progressive condition, where the longer a person has type 2 diabetes, the harder it is to maintain blood glucose control. This means the person is likely to progress from lifestyle management through to medication, combination medications and insulin. The rate of progression will vary from person to person.

Saturated fats: Derived mainly from animal fats, saturated fats can contribute to insulin resistance. Saturated fats can also lay fatty deposits on blood vessel walls, which makes it harder for the blood to flow, causing disease of the blood vessels (cardiovascular disease).

Self blood glucose monitoring: measurement of blood glucose levels at that point in time. It gives an immediate reading whether your blood glucose level is considered high, in target or low and is measured in mmol/L. Target ranges vary from individual to individual and should be discussed with a diabetes specialist or educator.

Source: Diabetes WA (http://www.diabeteswa.com.au).