Are You At Risk for Diabetes? The Answer is Probably “YES.”
Tuesday, March 27 is Diabetes Alert Day, a day that serves as a wake-up call to help people understand the widespread prevalence and seriousness of diabetes. In addition to being the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, diabetes increases a person’s risk for a host of serious health problems, including heart disease, nerve damage, blindness, kidney damage and hearing loss.
What is diabetes?
A person has diabetes when their blood sugar levels are too high. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin and is usually detected during childhood or adolescence. With Type 2 diabetes, which usually occurs in adults, the body makes some insulin but can’t use it properly or doesn’t make enough. Most people with Type 2 can control their diabetes through a program of weight loss, diet and exercise.
How common is diabetes?
Consider these sobering statistics:
- More than 30 million Americans have diabetes and almost 25 percent of these cases have not been diagnosed.
- More than 84 million Americans have prediabetes, a condition in which your blood sugar level is higher than it should be. Prediabetes makes it more likely to develop heart disease or suffer a stroke.
- More than 25 percent of Americans age 65 and older have diabetes.
- 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with diabetes this year.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Frequent urination (especially at night)
- Feeling thirsty all the time
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite
- Feeling weak and tired
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurry vision
- Tingling or numbing sensation in the hands and feet
What are the risk factors?
Having high blood pressure and/or a high cholesterol level, being overweight and not getting enough exercise are some of the most common risk factors.
When should I be tested?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of diabetes, have a family history of diabetes, or know of other risk factors, talk to your personal physician about being tested. Early detection can help you prevent or slow the progress of the many serious medical complications that can come with diabetes. It can take up to 10 years before complications arise, so the sooner you take action, the better.
What can I do if have diabetes or prediabetes?
Regular aerobic exercise and just losing a little weight, from five to 15 pounds, can help lower your blood sugar levels. Also, if you have diabetes, be sure to have an annual eye exam. Diabetes can cause blindness, and there are usually no symptoms until the damage to your eye is quite advanced. You should also check your feet regularly for cuts and sores that might go undetected. That’s because diabetes can reduce the blood flow to your feet and damage the nerves, causing a lack of feeling. If you have a wound that won’t heal on your foot, call your doctor.