According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and more than 84 million adults across the country have prediabetes. People with the disease are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke, making it vital to know its symptoms and causes, as well as preventative measures.
This Diabetes Awareness Month, here are four things you should keep in mind to help prevent and manage the disease.
- The Two Types of Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease linked to your body’s ability to process food and turn it into glucose, or sugar, for energy. In order for this process to function correctly, the body needs a hormone called insulin. People with type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin at all, while people with type 2 diabetes do not produce insulin as well as they should. In both cases, a buildup of sugar in the blood is what causes symptoms.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for around 5 to 10 percent of all cases, and on the other hand, type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all cases. 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.
- 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.
- Risk Factors of Type 2
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.
Additionally, it is well-documented that race and ethnicity play a role in diabetes’ development. Latino, African American, American Indian, and Alaska Native people are at higher risk for developing prediabetes or type 2.
- Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
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 you blood sugar levels. Check out the DASH diet or our new MiSOMOS app for tips and healthy recipes, and work with your doctor to develop a healthy weight loss plan.
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.
Finally, 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.
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.