Diabetes in Adults

Diabetes in Adults: Glossary

Here are definitions of medical terms related to diabetes.

Amino acids: Building blocks of proteins

Beta cells: Insulin-producing cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.

Body mass index: A measurement of the percentage of fat to muscle in the human body. To determine body mass index, weight in kilograms is divided by height in meters. A body mass index higher than 25 indicates overweight.

Endocrinologist: A physician who specializes in the endocrine system, which is the network of glands and other structures that secrete hormones and affect the function of certain organs.

Finger stick: The act of puncturing the tip of the finger to get a small sample of blood.

Glucagon: A hormone made in the pancreas that raises blood sugar levels. It can be given by injection to treat severe hypoglycemia.

Glucose: Commonly referred to as “sugar,” it is the major source of energy used by the body’s cells. It is taken from foods we eat and can be made from protein.

Glucose meter: A special device used to measure blood sugar levels.

Hemoglobin A1c test (HB A1c): This test indicates the average level of blood sugar over the previous three ot four months. It shows how well blood sugar levels are being controlled.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: “Good” cholesterol. High HDL cholesterollevels are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.

Hormone: A chemical messenger secreted by a gland that then travels in the blood to act on other parts of the body.

Hypertension: Higher than normal blood pressure. Hypertension can cause heart disease, strokes, kidney and eye damage.

Hyperglycemia: High levels of sugar in the blood. In diabetes, this can happen if there is not enough insulin or because of unusual food intake, less activity, illness, or other stress.

Impaired fasting glucose: A blood glucose level before breakfast that is higher than normal but lower than the value to diagnose diabetes. It is one of the risk factors that is associated with developing diabetes or heart disease in the future.

Hypoglycemia: Not enough sugar in the blood for those tissues that depend mainly on sugar for energy, such as the brain. This can happen after exercise, taking more insulin than usual, or skipping eating.

Impaired glucose tolerance: High blood glucose level that develops after a carbohydrate-rich meal or test dosage of glucose. Does not necessarily indicate diabetes, but may be a sign that the condition could develop later in life.

Insulin: A hormone made in the pancreas. It regulates the way sugar, fat, and protein are moved into the cells, and the way they are stored or used for energy.

Ketoacidosis: A condition caused by lack of insulin that could result in severe dehydration and a high-acid condition in the body.

Ketones: Acids created by the process within the body of burning fat; if the body produces too many ketones, they are excreted in the urine.

Lancet: A short pointed blade used to obtain a drop of blood; it has a guard above the blade that prevents a deep incision.

Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: “Bad” cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

Neuropathy: A disease or condition of the nervous system; nerve damage.

Oral glucose tolerance test: A special test used to diagnose diabetes and determine how well the body metabolizes glucose.

Pancreas: The organ inside the abdomen that secretes various substances, including enzymes needed for digestion, insulin, and glucagon.

Triglyceride: The chief ingredient in fats and oils. High levels in the blood are associated with heart disease.

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