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University of Illinois Extension


Aerobic exercise

Type of physical exercise that increases the work of the heart and lungs. Examples are running, jogging, swimming, and dancing.


Surgical removal of a limb or part of a limb. People with diabetes may be at increased risk for gangrene due to diabetes-related nerve damage in the legs and feet.


Certain vitamins and other substances that provide protection from the damage caused by "free radicals," which are created as a result of oxygen reactions in living tissues.


The process in which deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and other substances build up in the inner lining of an artery. This buildup is called plaque. It usually affects large and medium-sized arteries.

Artificial sweeteners

Various products that add sweetness to food, but have fewer calories than sugar.

Autoimmune disease

Condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own organs and tissues.

Basic food groups

The milk group, the meat group, the bread and cereals group, and the vegetable and fruit group.

Blood cholesterol

A waxy substance made by the body and required for a number of functions including hormone production and maintaining healthy cells. High levels of cholesterol in the blood are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis.

Blood glucose

Main sugar found in the blood and the body's main source of energy. Also called blood sugar.

Blood pressure

Pressure exerted by blood flow on artery walls. According to the American Heart Association blood pressure should normally be less than 120/80 mm Hg for an adult. High blood pressure (hypertension) can cause health problems such as heart attacks, strokes and kidney problems.


One of three macronutrients found in food. Foods that provide carbohydrate are starches, vegetables, fruits, dairy products and sugars. One gram of carbohydrate provides four calories.

Cardiovascular disease

Diseases of the heart and blood vessels.

Cardiovascular system

Body system composed of the heart and blood vessels responsible for circulating blood throughout the body.

Certified Diabetes Educators

Health care professionals who specialize in treating people with diabetes. They can be nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, doctors, social workers, or other professionals. Certified Diabetes Educators have passed a national exam that certifies them to teach people who have diabetes how to manage their condition.

Certain level gestational diabetes is diagnosed

According to the American Diabetes Association, gestational diabetes mellitus is diagnosed when:

  • Fasting plasma glucose is greater than or equal to 126mg/dl.
  • The two hour value of an oral glucose tolerance test is greater than or equal to 200mg/dl.
  • Casual plasma glucose is greater than or equal to 200mg/dl and symptoms of diabetes mellitus are present.

Cesarean delivery

Surgical procedure to deliver a baby through an incision in the lower abdomen and uterus. Also called "C-section."


A waxy substance made by the body and required for a number of functions including hormone production and maintaining healthy cells. High levels of cholesterol in the blood are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Dietary cholesterol is cholesterol that comes from animal products in the diet, such as butter, meats, egg yolk and dairy products.

The Milk and Yogurt Group (The Dairy group)

This group includes foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt.


Condition in which the body either can't produce insulin or can't effectively use the insulin it produces, resulting in high blood glucose levels.

Dietary cholesterol

Cholesterol that comes from animal products in the diet, such as butter, meats, egg yolk and dairy products. Excess amounts can contribute to the build-up of plaque on the artery walls and lead to heart disease.

Dietary fat

All of the fat that comes from the foods in our diet. There are three types of dietary fat, unsaturated fat, saturated fat, and trans fat.


A health care professional who advises people about meal planning, weight control and diabetes management. A registered dietitian (RD) has passed national exams from the American Dietetic Association and adheres to their standards of care.


The process the body uses in the gastrointestinal tract to break food into simple substances for energy, growth, and cell repair.

Excess calories

Calories consumed after daily calorie requirements for weight maintenance have been met. Consuming excess calories leads to weight gain.

Fasting Plasma Glucose Test (FPG)

A medical test that is performed to diagnose diabetes. This test measures plasma glucose, which is generally taken after an overnight fast (the blood sample drawn early in the morning, with nothing by mouth except water from about midnight the night before).


One of three macronutrients found in food. One gram of fat provides nine calories.


A substance in foods that comes from plants, which helps in digestion and keeps stool traveling easily through the intestine. Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains.


This is the main source of energy for the body.

Heart attack

Damage to the heart muscle due to insufficient blood supply.

Heart disease

Cardiovascular disease

Hemoglobin A1c

Blood test that shows the average percentage of glucose that has attached to hemoglobin over the last three months. The American Association of Endocrinologists recommends that most people with diabetes should have a HbA1c goal of less than 6.5 percent. The risk for diabetes complications increases when HbA1c results are consistently 6.5 percent or above.

High blood pressure/hypertension

Blood pressure exceeding 140/90 mmHg (for an adult). High blood pressure (hypertension) can cause health problems such as heart attacks, strokes and kidney problems.


Chemical produced by the body that regulates certain body functions.


Blood glucose above the normal range.


Blood glucose below the normal range.

Immune system

Complex system by which the body resists infection and disease.


Sexual dysfunction in men that may result from nerve damage caused by uncontrolled diabetes.


A hormone released by the pancreas in response to increased levels of glucose in the blood.

Insulin injections

Process of putting insulin into the body with a syringe or an insulin pen subcutaneously.


Condition characterized by yellow coloring of the skin and/or eyes that is caused by excess bile in the blood.

Kidney disease

Damage to the cells of the kidney so that filtration is impaired. Uncontrolled diabetes may result in kidney damage. Also called nephropathy.

Large birth weight

Weight at birth which is more than 4000 grams (8 pounds, 13 ounces), regardless of the period of gestation. Babies of large birth are also called macrosomic infants.

Lower cholesterol foods

Lean meats and low-fat cheeses, low-fat or fat-free milk, whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables.

Lower sodium foods

Fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, bread, crackers and snack foods without visible salt or cheese. Avoid prepared foods, canned foods, boxed dinner options, processed meats and cheeses or salted foods.


Nutrients that provide calories or energy and needed for health, namely carbohydrate, protein, and fat.


Abnormal development of part of the body.


Inorganic nutrients needed by the body in small amounts to help it function properly and stay healthy. Some examples of minerals are calcium, sodium, and phosphorus.

Moderate-intensity physical activity

Physical activity that burns 3.5 to 7 calories per minute (kcal/min). Examples include fast walking, mowing the lawn, dancing, and jogging.

Monounsaturated fat/monounsaturated fatty acids

An unsaturated fat with one double bond between carbon atoms that is liquid at room temperature and found primarily in plant foods such as olive and canola oils.


Condition resulting from damage to the peripheral nerves that results in weakness or sensory loss and pain in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. This type of nerve damage may be caused by uncontrolled diabetes.

Non-nutritive sweeteners

Substances that add sweetness to food, but provide little or no calories.

Normal blood glucose level

According to the American Diabetes Association normal blood glucose levels are defined as a:

  • Fasting plasma glucose of less than 100 mg/dl 
  • Two hour value of an oral glucose tolerance test of less than 140 mg/dl

Nutrition Facts labels

Labels required by law on virtually all packaged foods in the U.S. that provide product information including nutritional information.

Optimal blood lipid levels

The National Institute of Health Recommendations for Blood Cholesterol Levels defines optimal blood lipid levels as:

Total Cholesterol

< 200 mg/dl

LDL Cholesterol

< 100 mg/dl

HDL Cholesterol

>  60 mg/dl


< 150 mg/dl

Optimal weight

Body weight defined by you and your health care provider that decreases your risk for diseases and complications.

Oral glucose-lowering medications

Medications taken orally to lower blood glucose.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)

A medical test that is performed to diagnose diabetes. This test requires fasting overnight, then drinking a high-glucose beverage. Blood samples are taken every hour for several hours to see how well the body uses sugar.


Overweight is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9.  To find your BMI use the following chart. To use the chart, find the appropriate height in the left-hand column.   Move across to a given weight. The number at the top of the column is the BMI at that height and weight.

Click here to download a printable Body Mass Index table.


A gland that secretes a digestive fluid into the intestine and also secretes the hormone insulin.


Excessive thirst.


Excessive hunger.


Excessive urination.

Polyunsaturated fat/polyunsaturated fatty acids

Type of fat that is liquid at room temperature and found in vegetable oils and margarines, such as corn or soybean oil.


Blood pressure that is between 120/80- 139/89 mmHg.


One of three macronutrients found in food. The primary sources of protein are meats and dairy products. One gram of protein provides four calories.

Resistance exercises

Also called strength training, resistance exercise is a form of anaerobic exercise that often increases muscle mass, tones muscles, and increases strength.

Respiratory distress syndrome

Lung disease that causes difficulty breathing.


Disease of the retina of the eye that is commonly a complication of diabetes.

Saturated fat/saturated fatty acids

Type of fat that is solid at room temperature and found in the greatest amounts in food from animals, such as butter, cheese, milk, and cream, as well as meat and poultry skin. A few vegetable fats - coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm kernel oil, and palm oil - are also high in saturated fats.


Mineral found in salt and in many foods. Too much sodium can cause the body to retain fluid in people with heart failure and can aggravate high blood pressure.


Medical event that occurs when a blood clot blocks the blood and oxygen supply to the brain. Also called a cerebrovascular disease.

Subcutaneous tissue

The layer of fat just beneath the skin.

Sugar alcohols

Add sweetness to food. They have fewer calories than sugar, but more calories than "non-nutritive sweeteners".

Total fat

Total amount of dietary fat in a product including both saturated and unsaturated fats.

Trans fat/trans fatty acids

Vegetable oil that has been treated with hydrogen in order to make it more solid and give it a longer shelf life. Trans fat is commonly found in fried foods and baked products.


Fatty substances in the blood and adipose (fatty) tissues. High blood triglyceride levels are a risk factor for heart disease. According to the National Institute of Health Recommendations a desirable triglyceride level is 150mg/dl.

Unsaturated fat

Fat that is liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats include polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats. Unsaturated fat is found in vegetable oils, most nuts, olives, avocados, and fatty fish, like salmon.


Various organic (carbon-containing) substances found in plants and animals that are required in small amounts for life and health. Some examples of vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin C, and the B vitamins.


Products that contain whole kernel or ground whole kernels of a grains like barley, corn, oats, wheat and rye.

High Birth Weight

Weight of 8.8 pounds or greater at birth.

The Starch and Starchy Vegetables Group

This group includes foods like grains, bread, pasta, potatoes, crackers, and rice.

The Fruit Group

This group includes fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits like strawberries, bananas, melon, and oranges. This group also includes fruit juices.

The Vegetable Group

This group includes fresh, frozen, and canned non-starchy vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, and cucumbers. This group also includes vegetables juices.

The Fats and Oils Group

This group includes foods like butter, margarine, salad dressing, mayonnaise, sour cream, oils, lard, and nuts.

This site was last updated June, 2014.
This is a source of information only, and is not medical advice.