An estimated 7.3 million Americans have diabetes and do not know it. An additional 26.8 million Americans are living with a diabetes diagnosis. Having type 2 diabetes increases your risk of complications from the flu and other viruses, infection and sepsis, developing cardiovascular disease and even cancer. The good news is, diabetes can be managed and sometimes can even be prevented or delayed, which is why it is important to know the risk factors and symptoms.
November is diabetes awareness month and the perfect time to learn about the different kinds of diabetes, risk factors and ways to manage or prevent diabetes.
Kinds of Diabetes
There are three different kinds of diabetes, as well as prediabetes.
· Type 1 diabetes affects nearly 1.4 million adults and approximately 187,000 children in the United States. When someone has type 1 diabetes, their body does not produce insulin properly—the hormone used to regulate blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is not preventable and usually develops when you are a child or teen but can happen at any age.
· Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and it occurs when your body produces insulin but does not use it as it should. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes usually appear gradually over the course of several years, making them difficult to spot. It is important to know the risk factors of type 2 diabetes so you can catch it early.
· Gestational diabetes can show up in the middle of a pregnancy and usually does not have any symptoms. If you are pregnant, you should be tested for gestational diabetes between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy.
· Prediabetes is marked by elevated blood sugar levels but has no clear symptoms so it is possible to have it and not even know. Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they usually have prediabetes. Knowing you have prediabetes puts you at an advantage to prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, schedule an appointment with a doctor to get your blood sugar tested.
- Urinating (peeing) more times in a day or night than you normally do
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- Weight loss without trying
- Dry skin (and/or sores that take a long time to heal)
- Blurry vision
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
Diabetes Risk Factors
Knowing the risk factors for diabetes can help you be aware of your potential for developing it. You are at an increased risk for developing diabetes if you:
Type 1 Diabetes
- Have a parent, brother or sister with type 1 diabetes
- Are a child, teen or young adult (you can develop type 1 diabetes at any age but it is more likely to first appear when you are young)
Type 2 Diabetes (and Prediabetes)
- Have prediabetes
- Are overweight
- Are physically active less than 3 times a week
- Are over the age of 45 (you can develop type 2 diabetes at any age but it is more common after the age of 45)
- Have a parent, brother or sister with type 2 diabetes
- Previously had gestational diabetes
- Are a Hispanic/Latino American, African American, American Indian or Alaska Native (some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are also at higher risk)
Type 1 diabetes is a life-long condition that can be managed with insulin therapy and living a healthy lifestyle.
A healthy diet and regular physical activity are the two biggest components in managing type 2 diabetes in addition to medication.
- Think before you eat. If you are at risk or believe you are showing possible symptoms of diabetes, it may be necessary to change your diet. Carbohydrates have a big impact on blood sugar levels. Consuming higher protein foods can help stabilize your blood sugar. And don’t worry that you’ll have to give up all your favorites. Speak with your healthcare provider about how you can enjoy certain foods in moderation.
- Bottoms up! Food isn’t the only item you consume that can dramatically affect your blood sugar. What you drink, and how much, is just as important. Find a water bottle or cup that you love and make it your best friend. Sub water for sugary, caffeinated beverages, and switch from whole milk in your coffee and cereal to 1% or skim. Satisfy yourself more and reduce your processed sugar intake by eating fruits instead of drinking fruit juice.
- Keep it moving. Exercise helps keep your blood glucose and blood pressure on target. Adding any type of physical activity that helps strengthen your heart, improve blood circulation or decrease stress can contribute to weight loss and help reduce the risk of developing diabetes. As with any exercise program, check with your healthcare provider before starting.
- Don’t tip the scales. Even moderate weight loss – like 10% of your body weight –and a reduced calorie intake can help decrease your diabetes risk. Talk to your healthcare professional about additional steps you can take to reduce your risks of developing diabetes.
National diabetes month is an opportunity to educate people on the signs and symptoms of prediabetes and diabetes, as well as connect them with resources to be proactive in their health. The earlier people know they are at risk for diabetes or prediabetes, the more opportunities they have to prevent, delay or manage diabetes.