Did you know that 34.2 million adults in the United States have diabetes, and 1 in 5 of them don’t even know they have it? For a health condition that affects nearly 10% of the population, many people are uneducated on what it is, care, and how it can impact your overall health and quality of life.
What is diabetes?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Your body breaks down most of the food you eat into sugar (also called glucose) to release into your bloodstream and convert into energy. When your blood sugar goes up, a healthy person’s body sends a signal to your pancreas to release insulin. People with diabetes either don’t make enough insulin or their cells stop responding to insulin, and then too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream, which can cause serious health problems.
There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant). There isn’t a cure yet, but each type of diabetes has a variety of management or preventative measures that a person can take.
What preventative measures can I take to avoid diabetes?
- – Type 1: Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction that stops your body from making insulin. Currently, there is no way to prevent Type 1 diabetes.
- – Type 2: Type 2 diabetes develops over many years. It can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active.
- – Gestational: Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. It can be prevented by taking many of the same actions you would to prevent Type 2 – with healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy food, being active, or taking supplements if recommended by your doctor. Gestational diabetes typically goes away once your baby is born but increases your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life, and increases the risk that your baby is more likely to have obesity, and more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life too.
How is diabetes diagnosed?
Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always develop “prediabetes.” This is when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. If your doctor diagnoses you with prediabetes, he or she will likely recommend you be checked for type 2 diabetes every one to two years.
The American Diabetes Association has designated “We Stand Greater Than” as this year’s theme for American Diabetes Month. This means that now is “time to take action together, as a community. Because together, we can conquer this disease. Together, we stand greater than diabetes.”
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