Search the Health Library
Get the facts on diseases, conditions, tests and procedures.
I Want To...
I Want To...
Find Research Faculty
Enter the last name, specialty or keyword for your search below.
School of Medicine
Diabetes is a very serious disease that causes high blood sugar levels (elevated blood glucose). The American Diabetes Association estimates that about eight percent of Americans suffer from diabetes.
What you need to know about diabetes:
- People with diabetes have an increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, high-blood pressure, kidney disease and blindness.
- If you are obese, you can reduce your risk of developing diabetes by eating a low-fat, low-sugar diet and exercising regularly.
- If you can lose 5-10 percent of your body weight, you will lower your risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent.
- Johns Hopkins can help you lose this weight with our weight loss services, including behavior modification, nutritional counseling and a new, special endoscopic procedure. Learn more about our weight loss services.
Types of Diabetes
There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy). Type 1 typically occurs during childhood. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type and is linked to obesity. See a table that explains blood sugar values and types of diabetes.
How diabetes is harmful
Most people don’t really understand the way diabetes works, but a firm grasp of how it affects your body chemistry will help you better control the disease.
Your body is made up of millions of cells, and these cells use glucose as their energy source. Your body gets glucose from the food that you eat.
After a meal, your body secrets a hormone called insulin into your blood; insulin works as a signal to let your cells know that glucose is on the way to feed your cells. But, for people with diabetes, the signals that tell the cells to absorb the sugar are defective, or the body does not make enough insulin. As a result, high levels of glucose remain in the blood, which is thought to alter the structure and function of many different types of cells in your body. This is why diabetes can cause so many different kinds of serious illnesses if not controlled.
Does obesity cause diabetes?
There is clearly a link between Type 2 diabetes and obesity, and researchers around the world are working to solve the puzzle of how the two are connected. Some scientists think there is a connection between body fat and hormones that regulate appetite and insulin levels. When you lose weight, and reduce your body fat, you may have better control over your diabetes.
What is my risk for diabetes?
While physicians and researchers have established a link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes, genetics and environment play a huge role in determining who will develop diabetes. While this relationship is not completely understood by doctors and researchers, what we do think is that your genes and environment contribute to your baseline risk of developing diabetes. If you are obese, you can reduce this risk by eating a low-fat, low-sugar diet and exercising regularly.
How much weight do I have to lose to lower my risk of diabetes?
If you are pre-diabetic or diabetic, then losing 5-10 percent of your body weight can help improve your blood sugar numbers. If you are pre-diabetic and can lose this weight, you will lower your risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent.
In addition to helping you lose weight, exercise can improve your blood sugar numbers. Learn more about our weight loss services, as well as management of metabolic disorders.
Will having diabetes make it hard for me to lose weight?
Some medications used to treat diabetes often result in weight gain. But the good news is, they don’t have to. Our weight loss specialists will work to design a diabetes regimen that minimizes the use of medications that can lead to weight gain, while achieving good glycemic control. We will also design a healthy eating and exercise plan that will help control your diabetes, and help you lose weight.