If someone in your family has diabetes, you owe it to them, and to yourself, to learn more. Why? Because people with diabetes who have a strong support system generally cope better than those who don’t, and because if you have a family history of diabetes, you’re at higher risk of developing it, too.
Without proper care, diabetes can lead to serious health consequences, including heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, stroke, amputation, and even death — but it doesn’t have to be that way. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent some of those problems. Working together as a family can keep you all on the right track.
Clearing up confusion: Diabetes is not a single disease
According to the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), diabetes is actually a group of diseases:
Prediabetes: It is estimated that about 79 million adults in the U.S. have prediabetes. This means their blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but don’t quite reach the level of diabetes. Studies indicate that making lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent progression to diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes: About 2-10 percent of pregnancies involve gestational diabetes. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 35-60 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes within 20 years.
Type 1 Diabetes: About five percent of diagnosed cases involve type 1 diabetes. It is sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. It can start at any age, but is most often diagnosed in children and young adults. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. People with this type of diabetes must take insulin to live.
Type 2 Diabetes: Sometimes called adult-onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes, type 2 accounts for about 90-95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. The pancreas continues to produce insulin, but the body does not use it effectively. In time, insulin production decreases. Risk factors include aging, obesity, family history of diabetes, gestational diabetes, and physical inactivity. Approximately 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. It is increasingly diagnosed in children and teenagers.
Bonus Video: Family support with diet and exercise can make the difference when you’re at home, but what about when you’re on the road? David Marrero has type 1 diabetes and shares his tips for maintaining his healthy lifestyle when he’s on-the-go. Turn the page to see the video.