Diabetes Dictionary

A1C – An average of blood sugar levels over the course of a few months. A1C is commonly used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes and it is also the main test to help manage diabetes. It works by measuring how much blood sugar is attached to your hemoglobin. The higher the percentage, the higher your blood glucose levels have been, on average.


Antibodies – a protein produced by the body’s immune system in response to harmful substances. They are used to attack harmful substances, but they can sometimes attack normal things in the body such as insulin producing cells.


Autoantibodies – Immune system proteins that mistakenly attack and destroy insulin-producing cells. The immune system creates autoantibodies when it can’t tell the difference between “self” and “non-self”. Autoantibody testing can help diagnose type 1 diabetes correctly. Testing for autoantibodies soon after diagnosis can help distinguish type 1 diabetes from other types of diabetes.


Autoimmune – Autoimmunity occurs when the body mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy tissue.


Basal – Basal means base or at minimum. As it relates to Diabetes and Blood Glucose levels, this term would refer to fasted levels or levels prior to meals.


Beta Cell – Cells produced in the pancreas that produce insulin. In people with type 2 diabetes, beta cells have to work harder to produce enough insulin to control high blood sugar levels.  In people with type 1 diabetes, these are the cells that are mistakenly destroyed.


Blood Glucose – the main sugar found in the blood stream. Blood Glucose or blood sugar levels are measured to detect and diagnose Diabetes. Blood sugar mainly comes from carbohydrates.


Blood Vessels – channels that carry blood throughout the body. As it relates to diabetes, excess blood glucose decreases the elasticity of the blood vessels and causes them to narrows and interrupt blood flow.


BMI – Body Mass Index is a measure of weight in relation to height. Too much weight in relation to height can cause major health problems, one being Type 2 Diabetes.


Bolus – a single or a large dose. Bolus in relation to diabetes refers to medication or insulin taken after mealtime.


Carbohydrates – Carbs are sugar molecules that are one of the three main nutrients found in food and drinks. The body breaks down carbs into glucose, which is the main source of energy for the body’s cells, tissues, and organs. 


Cardiometabolic – A combination of many risk factors that affect the cardiovascular system surrounding how your body metabolizes or breaks down food into usable energy. Diabetes is a cardiometabolic condition.


Chronic – constantly reoccurring or persisting long periods of time. As it relates to Diabetes, chronic refers to the frequents of excess blood glucose levels.


Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) –  is a life-threatening complication of diabetes that occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. It can develop when the body breaks down fat too quickly, causing the liver to process the fat into ketones, which makes the blood acidic. DKA is most common in people with type 1 diabetes, but people with type 2 diabetes can also develop it.


Glucagon – A hormone produced in the pancreas that helps the body regulate blood sugar levels by stimulating the liver to produce glucose. The Liver is the primary target organ for glucagon.


Glucose – A type of sugar that’s a major source of the body’s energy.  The body can either make it or we can get it from food sources. Glucose is carried to the cells through the bloodstream.


Hyperglycemia – A condition of excess glucose in the bloodstream. It can happen when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use it properly. Hyperglycemia usually means you have Diabetes. If Hyperglycemia persists untreated for long periods of time, it can lead to nerve damage and also be life threatening.


Hypoglycemia– A condition of extremely low blood glucose levels. Hypoglycemia is often related to diabetes treatment and needs immediate treatment. Treatment involves quickly getting your blood sugar back to within the standard range either with a high-sugar food or drink or with medication. Long-term treatment requires identifying and treating the cause of hypoglycemia.


Ketone – The body produces ketones when liver breaks down fat to use as energy during fasting, long periods of exercise or when there aren’t many carbs present.


Insulin – An essential hormone produced by the pancreas that helps your body regulate blood glucose levels. Insulin helps cells absorb glucose and signals the liver to store glucose for later use.


Insulin Resistance – Refers to the body’s inability to absorb glucose into the body’s cells causing the body to produce more insulin to help regulate blood glucose levels, impairing the body’s response to insulin, causing high blood glucose levels.


Metabolism – The chemical reactions that occur in the body’s cells to convert food into energy. It’s a complex process that combines calories and oxygen to create and release energy. The body uses about one-tenth of its energy to process food into fuel. The remaining energy fuels your physical movement. Many people blame metabolic problems for weight struggles, but your metabolism naturally regulates itself to meet your body’s needs. It’s rarely the cause of weight gain or loss. What causes weight gain is consuming more calories than you burn.

Microvascular – Relating to the smallest blood vessels, which are less than 100 microns in diameter. These vessels form a network that regulates blood perfusion and exchanges blood with tissues. Microvascular complications are long-term complications that affect small blood vessels. They are unique to diabetes and include retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy.

Monitoring – Monitoring refers to regularly checking your blood sugar levels. 

Nephropathy – The deterioration of kidney function. Having poorly controlled blood sugar levels can lead to the kidneys’ filtering system slowly damaging over time leading to kidney failure or otherwise known as end-stage kidney disease.

Neuropathy – A chronic condition that occurs when peripheral nerves or nerves outside the brain and spinal cord are damaged often causing weakness, numbness and  pain in hands and feet normally. As it relates to Diabetes, high blood sugar levels can injure nerves throughout the body leading to diabetic neuropathy.  

Obesity – A chronic condition  defined as abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat that can threaten health. Obesity is a main risk factor of Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.

Pancreas – A glandular organ located in the abdomen. It makes pancreatic juices, which contain enzymes that aid in digestion, and it produces several hormones, including insulin.

Prediabetes – A serious health condition that occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. It is often regarded as a person at risk of progressing to Type 2 Diabetes.

Liver – A large organ in the upper upper abdomen responsible for cleansing blood and acids in digestion by secreting bile. As it relates to diabetes, it plays a key role in balancing blood sugar levels by storing extra blood sugar for future use.

Retinopathy – A disease that damages the retina, the part of the eye that senses light. As it relates to diabetes, high blood sugar levels affect the nerve tissue and blood vessels in the retina.

Risk Factor – Something that increases the chances of developing a disease or health disorder.

Self-Management – The ability of a person to effectively implement behaviors in their daily lives that will aid in managing a chronic disease. 

Sucrose – A form of sugar.

Vascular System – The vessels that carry blood and lymph through the body. Also known as the circulatory system.