Diabetes is at an all-time highOct 31, 2023 12:01PM ● By Kimberly Blaker
More than a third of all American adults have diabetes or prediabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Diabetes dramatically increases your risk for serious complications. It can be particularly problematic when combined with increased risks associated with aging. Being aware of the causes and symptoms of diabetes and knowing how to reduce your risk is crucial to your health.
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
Understanding the causes of a disease is essential to prevention. However, researchers still don’t know the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes. Mayo Clinic explains that medical researchers believe it results from a combination of heredity and environmental factors. These include exposure to a virus, low vitamin D consumption, or early exposure to cereal or cow’s milk. These factors aren’t direct causes of the disease but they may play a role when combined with other genetic and unknown factors.
Mayo Clinic says with Type 2 diabetes, “your immune system—which normally fights harmful bacteria or viruses—attacks and destroys your insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.”
As a result, you’re left with little to no insulin. So sugar builds up in your bloodstream rather than going into your cells as it should.
The cause of Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes isn’t fully understood either. But medical researchers do know several factors play a role. These include:
- Family history
- High blood pressure
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels
HOW TO REDUCE YOUR RISK
There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Prevention all boils down to these five words, explains Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH): “Stay lean and stay active.” More specifically, HSPH recommends you:
- Control your weight
- Be active
- Eliminate sugary drinks
- Eat good fats and reduce bad fats
- Eat whole grains rather than highly processed carbohydrates
- Reduce or eliminate red and processed meat. Instead, eat fish, poultry and nuts
- Drink alcohol in moderation only, one drink a day for women and two for men
- Quit smoking
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several symptoms to watch for that could indicate either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Being aware of these is crucial, so you can seek early treatment and prevent a medical emergency such as diabetic shock. Symptoms include:
- Heavy thirst
- Frequent urination, particularly at night
- Excessive hunger
- Dry skin
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
- Recurrent infections
- Slow-healing sores
For Type 1 diabetes, additional symptoms that may be present include stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. This form of diabetes typically develops between childhood and young adulthood, although it can have a later onset. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, may or may not show any symptoms.
CARE & TREATMENT
People with Type 1 diabetes will require constant monitoring and insulin therapy for the rest of their lives. Insulin is administered via injection or an insulin pump. Another method of insulin delivery for those 14 years old and over is through an artificial pancreas in which blood sugar levels are monitored, and insulin is automatically delivered as needed.
Those with Type 1 diabetes may require other medications as well. These include aspirin, cholesterol-lowering medications and high blood pressure medications.
Diet and exercise, similar to the recommendations for preventing Type 2 diabetes, is also an essential part of the treatment for Type 1.
Treatment for Type 2 diabetes requires some monitoring of blood sugar levels. While some people with Type 2 need insulin or other medication to control it, many people can control the disease with diet and exercise alone. The good news for those with Type 2 diabetes is that with proper diet and an active lifestyle, the condition can go into remission.
While all factors that play a role in diabetes may not be within our control, most factors are, particularly for Type 2 diabetes. So leading a healthy lifestyle and making necessary changes to do so can substantially reduce your risk for the disease.
NOVEMBER IS NATIONAL DIABETES MONTH
If you have diabetes, taking charge of your health may help you prevent other health problems. Here are some tips from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to help you manage your diabetes to stay healthy longer.
- Manage your A1C blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor what your goals should be, and stay informed about your A1C level.
- Take care of your mental health. A mental health counselor may help you find healthy ways to cope with stress.
- Make lifestyle changes to slowly build healthy habits. Take small steps to eat healthier, be more physically active and get enough sleep.
- Take your medicines on time, even if you feel healthy. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for help if you have trouble managing your medicines.
- Work closely with your primary care provider. They can help you manage your diabetes and refer you to other health care professionals for related health problems.
Visit niddk.nih.gov for more information on preventing diabetes health problems.