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Day in the Life

Century Park Blog

Facing the diabetes epidemic: What you need to know

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Chances are, you either have diabetes or know someone who does. The disease continues to spread across America and around the world. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes affects approximately 7.8 percent of the United States population.

What is diabetes?

Approximately 90-95 percent of diabetics in the United States suffer from type 2, or adult-onset diabetes. The remainder fall under the category of type 1, or juvenile diabetes.

The difference between the two lies not just in when symptoms appear but in the nature of the disease itself. In type 1, the immune system attacks and destroys the body’s pancreatic beta cells, leaving the body unable to produce insulin. No insulin means the body cannot break food down into the sugars used for energy. In type 2, the body’s cells are not destroyed; they simply do not produce as much insulin as they should, leaving the body unable to efficiently regulate sugars.

This article deals with type 2.

How do I know if I have diabetes?

Several risk factors play a part in developing diabetes. These may include:

  • Age (the older you are, the more likely you are to develop diabetes)
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history
  • Race (people of color tend to be more susceptible)
  • High blood pressure
  • History of cardiovascular disease
  • Prediabetes (glucose not quite over the diabetes threshold)

If you fit any of these categories, especially a combination, talk to your doctor. Blood tests can show how effectively your body is producing insulin and breaking down sugar.

Diabetes can manifest itself in a variety of symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you:

  • Feel unaccountably tired and grouchy
  • Feel extremely hungry or thirsty
  • Need to urinate frequently
  • Suddenly lose weight
  • Suffer from frequent infections or sores that do not heal
  • Experience blurred vision

What’s the big deal about diabetes?

Diabetes is serious, currently the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, mostly due to the complications it can cause over time or if not treated properly.

Most complications arise from the high blood sugar level damaging nerves and blood vessels throughout the body, from head to toe.

Diabetics are two to four times more likely to suffer from a stroke.

Neuropathy, another side effect, can lead to loss of feeling in the hands and/or feet, sometimes leading to wounds that, undetected and untreated, can cause infections that may even necessitate amputation. Wounds in diabetics are particularly susceptible to infections because of the blood sugar being exposed – bacteria are easily attracted to sugars and find diabetic wounds an enticing place to thrive.

Diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure, and it can lead to heart attacks, hearing loss, gum infections or osteoporosis.

People with diabetes face a battle in their bodies, and the fight also takes its toll emotionally and financially. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetics spend more than twice on health care what a non-diabetic would.

How is diabetes treated, and how can I prevent it?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetes yet, but there are ways to minimize its impact on your body and forestall or prevent complications.

Treatment of diabetes is best discussed with your physician – he or she can tell you whether you require insulin and how much medication you should take. If you have prediabetes, your doctor may prescribe the drug metformin to reduce your chance of developing diabetes.

There is nothing you can do about risk factors in your genetics, but you can make good choices about your lifestyle. Exercise often, and eat the right portions of wholesome foods. The goal is to maintain a healthy level of body fat, which is built up by both sugars and fats.

The bottom line

Learning about diabetes and putting your knowledge into practice can help you prevent or delay this devastating disease. Even if you do not suffer from diabetes yourself, knowing the facts can help you provide better support and encouragement to your friends and family members who live with its realities.

For more information about diabetes, visit these Web sites:

  • The America Diabetes Association:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  • National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse:

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