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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetes Glossary: Words and Phrases to Know

By Barbara Brody
WebMD Medical Reference

Aerobic exercise: Any rhythmic physical activity that uses large muscle groups and causes the heart and lungs to work harder than when your body is at rest. Also called cardio exercise, it’s been proven to lower blood sugar levels.

Artificial sweeteners: Also called non-nutritive sweeteners, includes low-calorie or non-caloric sweeteners or sugar substitutes. These add a sweet flavor with fewer calories than table sugar, corn syrup, or fruit juice concentrates. Examples include aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal), sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame potassium, neotame, and saccharin (Sweet'N Low).

Blood sugar: Also called blood glucose, this is the sugar that's in your bloodstream. People with type 2 diabetes have too much blood sugar because insulin levels or actions aren’t working well.

Body mass index (BMI): A calculation based on your height and weight to categorize you as underweight, at a healthy weight, overweight, or obese. BMI gives an idea of what your risks of health problems are based on your weight. You can calculate yours here.

Carbohydrates (carbs): A primary source of food your body uses for energy. These include simple carbohydrates (such as honey, table sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup), as well as complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs include starches (such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes) and dietary fiber (found in fruits and vegetables, nuts, and whole grains).

Carbohydrate counting: A meal-planning technique used by some people with diabetes. It involves tracking the grams of carbs in food to ensure that you don't eat more than a predetermined amount at a given meal. You can count each serving of carbohydrates, since each serving of carbs is 15 grams. If you choose this strategy, your doctor or diabetes educator will tell you how many total carbs to aim for in each meal or the total daily amount.

Cholesterol: A waxy substance found in your blood. Your body naturally makes cholesterol, but it’s also found in foods that you eat (namely, animal products). Since diabetes and heart disease often go hand in hand, your doctor may want to keep closer tabs on your cholesterol levels. She will want to make sure that your LDL ("bad") cholesterol -- which can lead to heart disease -- is not too high, and that your HDL ("good") cholesterol -- which is protective -- is high enough.

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