Diabetes

picture of a woman checking her blood sugar level

Almost everyone knows someone who has diabetes. An estimated 23.6 million people in the United States - 7.8 percent of the population - have diabetes, a serious, lifelong condition. Of those, 17.9 million have been diagnosed, and 5.7 million have not yet been diagnosed. In 2007, about 1.6 million people ages 20 or older were diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With Type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause serious problems. It can damage your eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Diabetes can also cause heart disease, stroke and even the need to remove a limb. Pregnant women can also get diabetes, called gestational diabetes.

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes may include fatigue, thirst, weight loss, blurred vision and frequent urination. Some people have no symptoms. A blood test can show if you have diabetes. About 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2. This form of diabetes is most often associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and certain ethnicities. About 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

Treatment and Prevention

Modest weight loss has been shown to be 71% effective in preventing Prediabetes from progressing into Diabetes in patients over 60. If you are overweight or obese, even losing 5-7% of your body weight (that’s only 10 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) is beneficial. This weight loss should be achieved by following a healthy diet and exercise regime.

If you have Diabetes, it is important to manage your blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, and medication as prescribed by your doctor.

Sources:
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/diabetes.html
“Diabetes.” NIHSeniorHealth.gov. National Institute of Health, 2008.
http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/overview/index.aspx#what