According to the Centers for Disease Control’s latest study, in 2014 29.1 million Americans - nearly 10% of the population - had diabetes. Of the 29.1 million, 21 million had been diagnosed, but 8.1 million were unaware they were living with the disease. Every year 1.4 million more Americans are diagnosed with diabetes.2
Are you at risk? Here’s some important information to know.
According to the National Institutes of Health, diabetes is when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is the main type of sugar found in your blood and your body’s main source of energy. Glucose comes from the food you eat and is also made in your liver and muscles. Your blood carries glucose to your body to use for energy.
The pancreas, located between your stomach and spine, is an organ that helps with digestion. It releases a hormone called insulin into your blood. Insulin helps glucose get from the blood into other parts of the body, such as your muscles or brain, to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough insulin, or the insulin doesn’t work the way it should. Glucose then stays in your blood and can’t be used by your body. When your blood glucose levels get and stay too high, you have diabetes or prediabetes.
The American Diabetes Association defines the following types of diabetes:
Previously known as juvenile diabetes, type 1 is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. With type 1 diabetes, the body simply doesn’t produce enough insulin.
This is the most common form of diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, the body produces too much insulin, and the body doesn’t use the insulin properly.2
Gestational diabetes can occur among women around the 24th week of pregnancy. A diagnosis of gestational diabetes does not mean that you had diabetes before you conceived, or that you will have diabetes after giving birth. However, it is a risk factor for getting diabetes in the future. If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice regarding blood glucose (blood sugar) levels.
When a person's blood glucose is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, he or she is diagnosed with pre–diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, before people develop type 2 diabetes they almost always have "pre–diabetes," and recent research has shown that some long–term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring at this stage. Research has also shown that taking action to manage your blood glucose can delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes from developing.3
If you have diabetes, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and help ensure a long and healthy life. In addition to your doctor and other healthcare providers, make your family and friends part of your team to help you take control of diabetes. It may seem like a lot of work, but it's worth the effort.
Here are some tips from the American Diabetes Association for managing your diabetes.
It’s very important to take any medications exactly as directed by your doctor. Work closely with your doctor and a dietitian to design a meal plan that maintains near–normal blood glucose levels. Make sure you eat meals and snacks at the same time each day, don't skip meals or snacks, and keep the amount and types of food you eat (carbs, fats, and proteins) consistent from day to day.
Exercise helps improve blood glucose management and makes insulin work more effectively in your body, lowering blood glucose levels. You can learn more by visiting the American Diabetes Association website.
This is a good test to measure your blood glucose control over a period of a few months. It can also:
Your eye care doctor can identify and treat diabetes-related eye problems early. Retinopathy, the most common form of diabetic eye disease, may have no symptoms in its early stages, but it can lead to blindness, as diabetes can damage blood vessels in the eye. If you have diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends that you have an eye examination every year to ensure that your eyes are healthy.
Especially your LDL/”bad” cholesterol. Talk with your doctor about ways to keep it lower than 100. For people with diabetes, excess blood sugar attaches to the bad cholesterol, so the bad cholesterol stays in the blood longer. It can build up in the blood vessels, restricting blood flow to the heart over time and increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Ask your doctor to examine your feet at each visit. High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to your legs and feet, causing poor circulation, nerve damage, foot deformities, skin breakdown, and infections. Talk to your doctor immediately about healthy foot care habits and report any foot problems or changes right away.
The kidneys’ job is to filter and clean the blood. This produces urine, which is stored in the bladder. High levels of blood sugar are hard on kidneys. Over time, this can cause them to leak substances such as protein into your urine. Your doctor can monitor your kidney function and the protein amounts in your urine to identify and treat any problems early.
It is always a good idea to be vaccinated against the flu as recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
You can get this shot anytime during the year. Usually only one shot is needed, but another shot 5–10 years after the first may be recommended by your doctor.
The American Diabetes Association reports that nearly one in three American adults has high blood pressure, and two in three people with diabetes report having high blood pressure or take prescription medications to lower their blood pressure. To make sure your blood pressure is within a healthy range, it’s important to see your doctor and have it checked. By keeping your blood pressure within a normal range, you can delay or help to prevent a heart attack or stroke.
Being a smoker and having diabetes increases the risk of death and heart problems by a full 50%.5 There are many programs to help you stop smoking. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about which program might be right for you.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, there are resources available online to help you learn more. The American Diabetes Association and the JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) each provide a wealth of information to help patients and family members deal with this disease.
This information is for educational purposes only and does not replace treatment or advice from a healthcare professional. If you have questions, please talk with your doctor.
This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional.
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