10 Terms to Discuss with Patients with Diabetes

January 2016, Vol 4, No 1 - Inside Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a condition characterized by high blood glucose levels associated with a lack of insulin, or the body’s inability to use insulin efficiently. Most often, diabetes is diagnosed in patients who are middle-aged and older, but can also be diagnosed in children, teens, and young people. The following terms may be useful for healthcare providers to explain when educating patients about their disease:

Beta cell
A cell located in the pancreas that makes insulin.

Blood cholesterol
A type of fat produced by the liver and found in the blood. The body uses cholesterol to make hormones and build cell walls. Also known as blood lipid.

Blood glucose
The main sugar found in the blood and the body’s main source of energy.

Hemoglobin A1C test
Measure of a person’s average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months. Hemoglobin is the part of a red blood cell that carries oxygen to the cells and sometimes joins with the glucose in the bloodstream. The test shows the amount of glucose that sticks to the red blood cell, which is proportional to the amount of glucose in the blood. Also known as glycosylated hemoglobin.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
A fat found in the blood that takes extra cholesterol from the blood to the liver for removal, sometimes called “good” cholesterol.

Impaired fasting glucose
A condition in which a fasting blood glucose test shows a level of glucose higher than normal (ie, a level of 100-125 mg/dL), but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes; also known as prediabetes.

Impaired glucose tolerance
When blood glucose levels are higher than normal (ie, a level of 140-199 mg/dL 2 hours after starting an oral glucose tolerance test), but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes; also known as prediabetes.

A hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. The beta cells of the pancreas make insulin. When the body cannot make enough insulin, insulin is taken by injection or other means.

Insulin resistance
The body’s inability to respond to and use the insulin it produces. Insulin resistance may be linked to obesity, hypertension, and high levels of fat in the blood.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
A fat found in the blood that takes cholesterol around the body to where it is needed for cell repair, and also deposits it on the inside of artery walls; sometimes called “bad” cholesterol.

A condition classified in people who have blood glucose or hemoglobin A1C levels higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. People with prediabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Glossary of terms. www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/glossary.html. Updated October 29, 2014. Accessed January 5, 2016.
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Last modified: February 4, 2016
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