Diabetes Dialogue: Risk Factors for Type 1, 2

Diego Ponieman, M.D., M.P.H.

By: Diego Ponieman, M.D. M.P.H.

Diabetes can be a complicated disease. It is not just the well-known Type 1 and Type 2 that I am talking about. There is also MODY, 3c or pancreatogenic just to name a few; these are types that we are still learning about. The month of November – National Diabetes Awareness Month – serves us a timely reminder that there’s more each of us can learn about diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when there is too much sugar, or glucose, in the blood. Currently, there are considered to be two main kinds of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes – previously known as juvenile diabetes – is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. In Type 1 diabetes, the body cannot produce insulin, a hormone that helps glucose absorb into cells of the body. In Type 2 diabetes – the most common form of diabetes – the body produces insulin, but does not use it properly, which leads to higher glucose levels in the blood.

Research from 2011 shows that Black, Hispanic, and Asian New Yorkers were at least twice as likely to have diabetes as white New Yorkers, and poor neighborhoods had the highest rates of diabetes. And according to the American Diabetes Association, elderly people are also more likely to have diabetes. As a physician serving predominately lower income patients, I want to make sure my patients are educated on diabetes as a first step of prevention. Simple conversations around cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose can help keep patients informed and healthy.

According to the New York City Department of Health, about 700,000 city residents have diabetes, a third of who do not know they have it. Many people are at increased risk of diabetes due to weight and/or have prediabetes, where blood glucose levels that are high – but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Forty percent of NYC elementary school children are overweight, and thus, at higher risk, and 36.2 percent of New Yorkers have prediabetes.

These alarmingly high statistics for New York make clear the need for diabetes awareness. Even small changes in eating and exercising can make a big difference. Healthy habits, which can include eating less processed foods and sugars and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, like choosing the stairs over the elevator, may help prevent prediabetes and diabetes. Patients can also assess their risk for Type 2 diabetes by taking the 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. It’s also important to be mindful of common symptoms of diabetes, which include: urinating often, frequent thirst, extreme fatigue, blurry vision and slow healing cuts and bruises.

As diabetes is becoming more of a widespread epidemic both in New York City and nationally, early detection is key to preventing serious diabetes-related complications like blindness and kidney disease. Insulin therapy, oral medication, learning how to consistently monitor glucose levels, and improving diet and exercise are some of the many ways to manage or lower risk of diabetes. Above all, diabetes management or prevention is strengthened through a good patient-doctor relationship. At SOMOS Healthcare, our network of physicians and specialists in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens are laser-focused on delivering high-quality, culturally sensitive, patient-centered care to New York City families. This November, make sure that you’re having the important diabetes talk.