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Each year, more and more Americans learn they have diabetes. And, while around 37 million people have the chronic condition, nearly 9 million don’t even know it yet. Diabetes Awareness Month, observed each November, aims to lower both numbers — by educating people on diabetes, getting the word out that prevention is possible and highlighting the importance of early detection.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. If you have diabetes, even though your body breaks down food into sugar (glucose) and releases it into your bloodstream as it normally would, it either doesn’t make enough insulin or is unable to use the insulin it makes as well as it should to help your body’s cells use it for energy.
When either of these issues happens, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream, leading to serious health problems like heart and kidney disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.
Prediabetes is when your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not quite high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. Though avoidable, many people diagnosed with prediabetes eventually develop Type 2 diabetes.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes has various causes, including genetic and environmental factors, that scientists believe cause your body’s immune system to trigger an attack and destroy the pancreatic cells that make insulin. While it can be diagnosed at any age, Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in children and teenagers. Symptoms related to Type 1 diabetes, like frequent urination and severe thirst, typically come on quickly. Only about 5 to 10 % of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes, according to statistics from the CDC.
Type 2 Diabetes
Most people with diabetes have Type 2, often developing in people over 45. Caused by cells not responding as they should to insulin, known as insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes can lead to high blood sugar levels in the bloodstream. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, symptoms of people with Type 2 diabetes tend to develop and appear slowly.
Gestational diabetes affects pregnant women. With this type of diabetes, hormones disrupt the production or function of your insulin levels, leading to high blood sugar levels in your bloodstream. Although it usually subsides after your baby is born, gestational diabetes increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. It can also affect your baby, increasing their risk of obesity or developing Type 2 diabetes.
Prediabetes is reversible, and Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, improved, and sometimes even reversed. Here are five lifestyle tips to implement to help prevent diabetes.
Like being overweight or obese, smoking significantly increases your risk of developing diabetes.
Eat a Healthy and Balanced Diet
Your diet affects your blood sugar levels. That’s why you should focus on eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains and limiting foods high in sugar and fat.
Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight and improve your muscles’ ability to use insulin, thus lessening stress on the pancreatic cells where insulin is produced.
Like your food, what you drink also affects your blood sugar levels. Wine and other drinks high in sugar and carbohydrates may raise your levels and increase your risk for diabetes, especially when consumed regularly.
Lose Excess Weight
Being overweight or obese can significantly increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Early Detection of Diabetes
Diagnosing diabetes early is vital to lowering your risk of developing complications related to the disease. For example, because Type 2 diabetes affects many major organs, like the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys, it’s linked to a higher likelihood of developing problems in these parts of the body, including heart disease, kidney disease, eye diseases and nerve damage.
You can get tested for diabetes with a simple blood test. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends testing for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes for adults ages 35 to 75 who are overweight or obese.
Diabetes Care at AdventHealth
Managing diabetes can be challenging, but your care provider can help you keep your blood sugar levels in check so you can live a whole, fulfilling life.