Insulin is a hormone that your pancreas produces to distribute glucose from the blood to the cells of the human body. Glucose is the fuel of the human body and gives us energy and promotes growth. If insufficient insulin is present in the body,the body will use fat as a source of energy.
The main role of insulin is to keep blood sugar levels at a normal range. After you eat, carbohydrates break down into sugar (glucose) and this sugar is your primary source of energy. The pancreas will respond to these sugar levels by releasing insulin, which allows the sugar to enter the cells of the body, keeping the blood sugar levels regulated.
The picture to the left is a 3D model of an insulin molecule etched into a crystal cube. It reminds me a little of the bio-hazard signs you might see in hospitals. Type 1 diabetes sufferers have no natural insulin, so they need insulin shots to properly manage the glucose in their bodies. People with type 2 diabetes may produce insulin, but their bodies do not respond appropriately to it. Often a change in diet and lifestyle can increase the effectiveness of the existinginsulin, but some many need diabetes pills or shots to help their bodies manage glucose. There are various types of insulin available and they vary on how long they control the blood sugar level for and how fast they act.
To properly assess what type of insulin you need, your doctor will take into account varying factors. These will include what type of diabetes you have, your lifestyle, your eating habits and your glucose levels. All insulin has three characteristics. The first is the onset of the insulin.This is the time it takes for the insulin to reach the blood stream and being lowering the blood sugar levels. The next is the insulin’s peak time .This is the period in which the insulin is at its most effective in terms of lowering glucose levels in the blood. The final characteristic is the duration of the insulin; how long it will continue to be effective in lowering blood glucose (see image below).
The type of insulin prescribed to you will depend on the specifics and severity of the diabetes.
- Rapid-acting insulin will begin to work almost immediately and will peak for one hour and will last for 2 to 4 hours.
- Regular insulin will reach the blood stream 30 minutes after injection and will peak between 2 to 3 hours after injection and will continue to be effective for 3 to 6 hours.
- Intermediate-acting insulin will reach the blood stream 2 to 4 hours after being administered, will peak 4 to 12 hours later and will continue to be effective for 12 to 18 hours.
- Long-acting insulin becomes active in the bloodstream 6 to 10 hours after injection and is effective for 20 to 24 hours.
All insulin will come suspended or mixed in liquids and insulin can come in different strengths. The most common strength being used in the U.S is U-100, which means that it has 100 units of insulin per milliliter of fluid. It is important to note that in Europe and Latin America, U-40, which has 40 units of insulin, is still being used. So if you are traveling outside of the U.S, make sure you are matching the insulin strength with the correct size syringe. Insulin therapy can be demanding and requires responsible monitoring, but it doesn’t need to take over your life. Consult with your doctor and choose the program that is right for you. You and your doctor can decide which type of insulin is best for you and when to take each dose. Many famous movie starts, musicians and athletes have diabetes. Steve Redgrave, who won 5 Olympic gold medals has type 1 diabetes and still leads a healthy lifestyle and is an outstanding athlete. With the right program and the right lifestyle, you can live with diabetes and still be healthy and active.