Guadagnare Salute

Epidemiologia e prevenzione delle malattie cerebro e cardiovascolari


Prevention and lifestyle

Glycaemia and diabetes

Many foods we eat are transformed into a sugar, the glucose, which is used by the body to produce energy. The pancreas produces an hormone, the insulin, which facilitates the entry of glucose into the cells. If a person is affected by diabetes, then his/her body is unable to produce enough insulin or to use it properly; this leads to higher sugar levels in the blood, that is an increase in glycaemia.


Glycaemia is measured in milligrams per decilitre (mg/dl) or in millimoles per litre (mmol/l). A person is diabetic if fasting glycaemia measured at least twice with a one-week interval between the two measurements is equal to or higher than 126 mg/dl.


There are two forms of diabetes:

  • type-I or insulin-dependent diabetes, accounting for about 10% of diabetes cases, affects young people
  • type-II or non-insulin-dependent diabetes, accounting for about 90% of diabetes cases, is linked to overweight.

Type I diabetes is mainly caused by genetic factors. Type II diabetes is linked to age, family history and unhealthy habits, such as physical inactivity, a too rich diet, obesity.



How to keep blood sugar levels at a favorable rate


Diabetes is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Diabetic persons can reduce their cardiovascular risk by modifying the other risk factors:

  • through a well-balanced diet, low in sugars and fats
  • controlling their weight
  • doing regular physical activity. Exercising is not only a way to lose weight, but it also contributes to lowering sugar levels in the blood
  • reducing the alcohol consumption.

Diabetes and cardiovascular disease


Diabetes is a serious disease and, if not properly treated, it may lead to macro- and micro-vascular complications. Diabetes increases the risk of atherosclerosis, favours hypertension and hypercholesterolemia and reduces HDL-cholesterol level.


Moreover, diabetes may lead to complications that affect eyes (blindness), kidneys and the nervous system.


© Istituto Superiore di Sanita (ISS)