Over 20 million people in the US have diabetes. Diabetes is a condition in which your body either can’t make or can’t use insulin properly to break down and absorb sugars in your food. Most patients have type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes, or juvenile diabetes) occurs when the pancreas makes little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the carbohydrate and fat metabolism in your body. It is necessary to transport glucose (blood sugar) from your food into the cells of your liver, muscle, and fat tissue where it is stored as glycogen and an energy source. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, where the insulin producing β-cells in the pancreas are destroyed. Patients with type 1 diabetes need daily injections of insulin.
Type 2 diabetes – also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes – is a metabolic disorder that is caused by obesity, advancing age, and physical inactivity, resulting in insulin resistance. People with type 2 diabetes make some insulin but either it’s not enough, or their bodies just aren’t able to use it properly. Many people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood sugar by exercise and dietary modification., but some people also need to use insulin shots or other medications.
There are many complications that come from diabetes and poor blood sugar control. People with diabetes can develop nerve problems, kidney disorders, blindness, and severe infections. They also have a higher risk of coronary artery disease, stroke and certain cancers, like pancreatic and uterine cancer. Each year almost 200,000 Americans die from diabetes and its complication.
About 3-5 % of women develop diabetes during pregnancy, called gestational diabetes. Usually a temporary condition that goes away after giving birth, gestational diabetes can nevertheless cause problems for both mother and baby. Some complications include certain types of birth defects, abnormally large babies, and an increased risk of caesarian section. Even if the diabetes disappears after the baby is born, women who have had gestational diabetes also have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Individuals with Adult-Onset, Type 2, Diabetes represent 90 to 95 percent of all diabetics. An estimated 15.7 million Americans have diabetes, of which almost one-third are unaware that they have the disorder.
Diabetes can cause serious complications, such as blindness and heart, nerve and kidney diseases.
The risk of Diabetes
Anyone can develop diabetes, but most people that have diabetes are adults over the age of 40, and the risk increases with age. African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders are at higher risk of developing diabetes compared to whites. Also, people who are overweight, inactive, smoke or have family members with diabetes are at a higher risk.
You can reduce your risk of developing diabetes:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular exercise
- Don’t smoke
- Eat a healthy diet that focuses on whole grains and “good” fats (like olive and canola oil)
Diabetes Risk Factors you cannot control include :
- Older Age: The risk of type 2 diabetes increases with age, and it is most common in people over the age of 40.
- A past history of diabetes or high blood sugar: People who have had problems with high blood sugar in the past may be at higher risk of developing diabetes. Women who have had diabetes during pregnancy (called gestational diabetes) are also at higher risk of developing diabetes later in life.
- A positive Family history: A person with a close relative who had diabetes has a higher risk of developing the disease. This increased risk is probably due to a combination of shared genes and shared lifestyle factors.
- Race and ethnicity: In comparison with Caucasians, Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders.
Diabetes Risk Factors you can control include :
- Weight and waist size: The risk of Type 2 diabetes goes up as body weight increases. Extra weight affects the body’s sensitivity to insulin and it also puts extra strain on the whole body, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This is especially true for people who carry extra body fat around the waist and a condition called Metabolic Syndrome.Maintaining a healthy weight has been proven to decrease the risk of cancer of the colon, kidney, breast and uterus.
- Tobacco smoke: Smoking increases the risk of diabetes. Smoking can increase blood sugar levels and decrease the body’s ability to use insulin. It can also change the way the body stores excess fat – increasing fat around the waist. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, emphysema, bronchitis, osteoporosis, and and a number of cancers that include the lung, larynx, throat and esophagus. For many people, quitting smoking is the single best thing they can do to improve their health.
- Exercise is one of the best ways to help maintain a healthy weight, a key factor in lowering the risk of diabetes. Exercise also helps the body’s cells use insulin effectively, which makes it easier to control blood sugar levels. In addition, exercise also helps prevent other diseases such as heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and colon cancer. Even just 30 minutes of moderate exercise (like walking) daily can decrease your risk of disease.
- Diet can be a powerful tool for lowering the risk of diabetes. The best approach? Eat a diet that focuses on whole grains, cereal fiber, and liquid vegetable oils and limits refined starches (like potatoes A glass of red wine, about one drink a day for women and two for men, has been shown to decrease the risk of diabetes. Limited use of alcohol may also decrease the risk of developing heart disease. Alcohol abuse has many of its own risks like increasing blood pressure, body weight, heart failure, addiction, suicide and accidents.
Calculate your risk of developing heart disease or stroke with diabetes here