Diabetes Awareness Month: It’s not always a silent killer
It causes approximately 72,499 deaths in the United States every year. The risk of dying from diabetes is about twice that of people without diabetes of similar age. Although in many cases of type 2 diabetes, its victims are unaware that they have it, in others it is most definitely not a silent killer, causing a myriad of complications like heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, infections, and amputations.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Knowing the warning signs and living a healthy lifestyle are important weapons in the fight against diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association reports that 24 million people in the United States have diabetes and 57 million other Americans are risk. Most shockingly, if current trends continue, one out of every three children born today will face a future with diabetes.
What is diabetes? “Diabetes Mellitus” is a term for a group of diseases that affect how the body uses blood glucose, the main energy source for the cells in your muscles and tissues. It is the body’s main source of fuel. Although they share similar names and are often confused, there are two distinct forms of diabetes.
In type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, the body fails to produce insulin, a hormone necessary to convert sugar and other foods into energy. About 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, and are often diagnosed as children or young adults.
Type 2 diabetes is much more common. Type 2 diabetics do not produce enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin properly.
What about pre-diabetes? That’s higher than normal blood glucose levels, but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. It is a clear warning sign that should be heeded. That’s when it’s time to get very serious about making some changes.
What are the risk factors for having diabetes? Some risk factors, like genetics, are clearly out of our control.
Other risk factors are ours to change. Certainly excess weight, poor diet, and lack of exercise are things we can control. According to The National Institutes of Health risk factors for diabetes include:
- Age greater than 45 years
- Diabetes during a previous pregnancy
- Excess body weight (especially around the waist)
- Family history of diabetes
- Given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- HDL cholesterol under 35mg/dL
- High blood levels of triglycerides, a type of fat molecule (250 mg/dL or more)
- High blood pressure (greater than or equal to 140/90 mmHg)
- Impaired glucose tolerance
- Low activity level (exercising less than 3 times a week)
- Metabolic syndrome
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- A condition called acanthosis nigricans, which causes dark, thickened skin around the neck or armpits
- Persons from certain ethnic groups, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, have a higher risk for diabetes.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
- Frequent urination
- Unusual thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unusual weight loss
- Extreme fatigue and Irritability
- Any of the type 1 symptoms
- Frequent infections
- Blurred vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Tingling/numbness in the hands/feet
- Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections
- Often people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms
How is diabetes diagnosed?
- A fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test measures blood glucose in a person who has not eaten anything for at least 8 hours.
- An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) measures blood glucose after a person fasts at least 8 hours and 2 hours after the person drinks a glucose-containing beverage.
- A random plasma glucose test, also called a casual plasma glucose test, measures blood glucose without regard to when the person being tested last ate.
How is diabetes treated? Diabetes treatment varies according to each patient’s needs and requires dedication in order to manage the disease. People with diabetes must monitor what they eat and keep track of their blood glucose levels. A proper diet (check with your personal physician) and exercise are essential, and diabetics must take special care with their overall health. Type 1 diabetics and some type 2 diabetics must self-inject insulin on a daily basis or use an insulin pump.
Diabetes and Health Care Reform: The cost associated with insulin and other diabetes medical supplies is staggering. Lack of insurance (pre-existing condition) and high health care costs are forcing many people to cut back on – or even go without – doctor visits, medications and diabetes supplies. Without adequate care, too many diabetics suffer needlessly from preventable life-limiting or life-threatening complications and require more expensive care later.
Lives are at stake. Please take a moment to tell Congress that People with Diabetes Need Health Care Reform.
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