Diabetes is a national health crisis that affects over 30 million people
in the United States. But over 7 million people are unaware that they
have diabetes. That’s why knowing how to prevent and manage this
chronic disease is so important.
Diabetes can be either type 1 or type 2.
Type 1, which affects about 10 percent of those with diabetes, prevents
the body from producing insulin and can be treated with insulin injections,
diet and exercise.
Type 2 is the most common form: Either the body does not produce enough
insulin, or the cells ignore the insulin. Obesity, poor diet and a sedentary
lifestyle are the primary triggers for type 2 diabetes, in addition to
a cluster of risk factors called cardio metabolic syndrome: high blood
pressure, elevated triglycerides, low levels of HDL, abdominal obesity,
inflammation, insulin resistance, and elevated blood glucose.
If you experienced gestational diabetes while pregnant or suffer from polycystic
ovary syndrome (PCOS), you’re also at greater risk for developing
type 2 diabetes.
What to watch for
Although type 2 diabetes doesn’t always cause symptoms, here are
some signs that warrant a visit to the doctor:
- frequent urination
- excessive thirst and/or hunger
- unusual weight loss
- extreme fatigue
- frequent infections
- blurred vision
- cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
- tingling/numbness in the hands or feet
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, make an appointment
with a healthcare provider.
Diabetes increases your risk of:
- Heart disease
- Kidney damage
- Eye problems
- Nerve damage
Learn more about your risk of diabetes by visiting a healthcare provider.
How can you help prevent diabetes in your own family?
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Schedule annual physicals
Ask your healthcare provider about being tested regularly for diabetes.
The disease can cause damage to your body for years before you have symptoms,
and early treatment can help prevent more damage.
Diabetes screening blood tests include the fasting plasma glucose test
and the oral glucose tolerance test, which can also determine if you are
pre-diabetic, with blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but
not yet high enough to be considered diabetic.
Schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider.
What is pre-diabetes?
Over 9 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes and 84 million Americans
have pre-diabetes, so regular doctor visits to monitor your health are
essential. Your physician may use a fasting plasma glucose test to determine
if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes; a blood glucose level of 99 or lower
is considered normal, 100 to 125 may indicate pre-diabetes, and 126 or
higher may indicate diabetes.
If you have pre-diabetes, your risk of developing diabetes within the next
10 years is higher, although modest weight loss and moderate physical
activity can help reduce the odds. You’re also at higher risk for
type 2 diabetes if you are over 45, overweight, inactive, have a family
history of diabetes, have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, had
gestational diabetes, or are a member of certain ethnic groups, such as
African Americans and Asians.
Tips for Patients with Diabetes:
* Plan what you are going to eat. “You know you are going to be hungry tomorrow, so why not plan today?”
asks Dr. Pamela Sheffield, affiliated with Evergreen Hospital Medical
Center in Kirkland, Wash. A diabetes education program will help you organize
meals so that you don’t end up consuming more calories than you
want or need when you try to control your hunger with a fast-food run.
* Don’t be a stranger. Most people with diabetes need to see their provider every three months.
Make those appointments worthwhile by getting your lab work done in advance
and bringing your blood sugar and blood pressure logs with you.
* Check your blood sugar and insulin levels. Your doctor’s office will show you the basics, but diabetes education
goes a few steps further, teaching you tricks for understanding what those
levels mean and how to manage them. You may be shown how eating smaller
meals more often throughout the day, for example, or getting enough sleep
can help manage your insulin levels.
* Make a disaster plan. Make sure you have a plan should you be caught without your insulin. Ask
your healthcare provider for advice on how to create a portable diabetes
kit, with pharmacy phone numbers and other essentials.
* Make regular appointments with your eyecare professional. Diabetes can cause damage to your vision that can go undetected without
regular eye exams.
* Avoid becoming discouraged. Unfortunately, diabetes is a progressive disease and it does worsen over
time, even if you do the right things. You may need to add another medication
or change medication, and that’s just part of the process. Don’t
consider these changes failures. They are a normal step in preventing
Learn more about our Diabetes Support group.