AMERICAN DIABETES MONTH
According to the CDC, adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions like diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease, heart conditions among others are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. In order for this process to function correctly, the body needs a hormone called insulin. If you have diabetes, your body either does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin it makes as well as it should. And without enough insulin, blood sugar stays in your bloodstream, which at a certain level, can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and more than 88 million adults across the country have prediabetes. These numbers represent an increase of 4 million people in one year since 2019. Only in New York, according to the New York City Department of Health, about 987,000 city residents have diabetes, and 19% among them do not know they have it. Furthermore, 40% of elementary school children are overweight, which puts them at risk for diabetes. Additionally, medical costs for people with diabetes are twice as high as for people who do not have diabetes.
Regardless of the type, diabetes is not a curable disease yet, however, it is a very treatable disease and easily preventable. If you want to prevent suffering from blindness, heart disease, kidney disease, and a severe increase in your medical costs, keep in mind the following 3 notes to help prevent and manage the disease.
- The Three Types of Diabetes
- Type 1: Your body does not produce insulin at all. If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need to take insulin every day.
- Type 2: Your body does not use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. You may not notice any symptoms, so it’s important to get your blood sugar tested if you’re at risk. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, healthy eating, and getting regular physical activity. Assess your risk for Type 2 diabetes by taking the free anonymous American Diabetes Association’s Type 2 Risk Test, or opt into the New York City Department of Health’s A1C Registry, which contacts individuals to follow up on test results that show high blood glucose levels. Since nearly one in three of those with diabetes are undiagnosed, it is important to understand if you are at risk.
- Gestational diabetes: Develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. It usually goes away after your baby is born but increases your risk of type 2 diabetes later in life. Your baby is also more likely to become obese as a child or teen and develop type 2 diabetes later.
- Understanding the Symptoms
Symptoms of diabetes vary depending on blood sugar level, and even if you do have the disease, you may not notice symptoms. Typical symptoms include frequent urination, excessive thirst, unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, tiredness, and frequent infections.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis, visit your doctor to be tested.
- Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
There are several factors involved in the development of type 2 diabetes, the most well-known being weight, diet, and exercise. However, age, family history of diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, smoking habits, and experience with gestational diabetes (high blood sugar levels during pregnancy) are additional risk factors for developing the disease.
Thankfully, there are several steps that you can take to help prevent or manage diabetes.
- Start with making sure that you are eating healthy foods with plenty of fiber and whole grains—not only will this help keep your weight under control, but it will also help you improve and maintain your blood sugar levels.
- Another key preventive measure is regular exercise. But there is no need for strenuous workouts—just making moderate exercise a part of your routine is helpful. Try making a regular occurrence out of taking the entire family to the park to play or going for 30-minute walks every other day.
- If you smoke, stop it! Cigarette smokers are 30-40 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers, making it more important than ever to put down the pack.
According to the American Diabetes Association, Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes. Yet genetics and environmental factors are important in both: you inherit a predisposition to the disease, then something in your environment triggers it.
It is well-documented that race, ethnicity, age, and social condition play an important role in diabetes’ development. Latino, African American, American Indian, and Alaska Native people are at higher risk for developing prediabetes or type 2. Poor neighborhoods have the highest rates of diabetes; and elderly people are also more likely to have this condition.
Always consult with your healthcare provider about the best treatment options for you, and make sure to have regular blood tests to test for type 2 or prediabetes so you can begin treatment as soon as possible.