Diabetes: if you don't live with it yourself, then it's likely you have a family member or friend who does. This November during National Diabetes Month, ask yourself if you're at risk of type 2 diabetes and take steps to prevent it. Diabetes affects 26 million Americans, with 19 million people diagnosed and 7 million undiagnosed. And an estimated 79 million American adults aged 20 years or older have prediabetes, which puts them at high risk for developing the disease.
What is diabetes? Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.
What are the types of diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes, which was previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile-onset diabetes, may account for about 5 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, which was previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes, may account for 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only pregnant women get. If not treated, it can cause problems for mothers and babies. Gestational diabetes develops in 2 to 10 percent of all pregnancies but usually disappears when a pregnancy is over.
Other specific types of diabetes resulting from specific genetic syndromes, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections, and other illnesses may account for 1 to 5 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.
Prediabetes is an elevated blood glucose level that is not quite high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes but is higher than normal. One in three American adults has prediabetes, and most do not even know they have it. Many people with prediabetes who do not lose weight or do moderate physical activity will develop type 2 diabetes within three years.
Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and amputations of the foot, toe or leg. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
You are at increased risk for developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes if you:
Are 45 years of age or older.
Have a family history of type 2 diabetes.
Ever gave birth to a baby that weighed more than nine pounds.
Ever had diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes).
What can you do?
Researchers are making progress in identifying the exact genetics and "triggers" that predispose some individuals to develop type 1 diabetes, but prevention remains elusive. A number of studies have shown that regular physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is also associated with obesity, so losing weight if you are overweight or obese can also play a role in reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes now can make a significant impact on your life in the years to come.
Information taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, "Diabetes Awareness This National Diabetes Month"
Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. In addition to her column, you can also find nutrition tips and ideas on the blog she writes at www.averastorycenter.org.