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Demystifying Diabetes

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Diabetes is a serious disease and it’s important to know if you are at risk In the U.S., 29 million people have diabetes – up from 26 million in 2010 – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prevention efforts are crucial in the combat against this condition and its associated risks. Let’s start by understanding the two types of the disease.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 is when the body destroys the insulin-producing cells that allow it to process sugar. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas and allows your body to use sugar from carbohydrates in the food you eat and keeps your blood sugar levels from getting too high or too low.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 is when the body produces insulin but is unable to use it properly.

With type 2 diabetes, our bodies develop a resistance to the action of insulin, and the body is called upon to produce increasing amounts of insulin to normalize blood sugars. As our body’s ability to produce that extra insulin declines, that’s when our blood sugar begins to rise and type 2 diabetes could be diagnosed during that transition.

The good news is that this version can be prevented, delayed or controlled with improved eating habits and increased exercise. If that isn’t enough, oral medication or insulin treatment may be required.

Prediabetes

Also causing concern is prediabetes – a condition when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to warrant a diabetes diagnosis. The CDC estimates 86 million people have prediabetes, with a staggering 90 percent of adults unaware or undiagnosed.

Pre-diabetes is something that physicians are looking at because these individuals whose blood levels are starting to increase have a window of opportunity to prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes by making some lifestyle changes. This could include making healthier food changes and increasing exercise.

You may have prediabetes if you are 45 years of age or older, overweight, or physically active fewer than three times per week. Other indicators include high blood pressure or a family history. In addition, you are at an increased risk if you gave birth to a baby that weighed over nine pounds or have a history of diabetes during Pregnancy.

The disease carries an increased risk of health complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, limb amputation, even premature death.

Are you at risk?

Diabetes is a serious disease and it’s important to know if you are at risk. It starts with having a conversation with your primary care clinician.

Ask your clinician:

  • Am I at risk?
  • What is my blood sugar?
  • Is that a normal value?
  • If it is abnormal, what is the plan of care?

Sometimes it is worth asking if your doctor can refer you to a registered dietitian so you can learn more about healthy foods, nutrition and diabetes prevention or management.

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