Diabetes is a growing health problem. More people have diabetes now than ever before. Here are ten facts about diabetes to help increase awareness and improve understandings of diabetes.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which blood glucose levels are too high. Your cells use glucose – the main sugar found in your blood – for energy. Insulin helps the cells absorb glucose. Diabetes is diagnosed when your body doesn’t produce insulin, or doesn’t use insulin well, and glucose stays in the blood. This is also known as hyperglycemia.
The different types of diabetes
There are three main types of diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce insulin. This accounts for 5% of diabetes cases.
- Type 2 diabetes – the most common type of diabetes – occurs when your body doesn’t use insulin well. 9 out of 10 people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes occurs when women who are pregnant develop higher than normal blood sugar levels. Gestational diabetes increases the risk that the mother and baby will develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown
The causes and risk factors for type 1 diabetes are largely unknown. A family history of type 1 diabetes increases your risk, but no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes
Unlike type 1 diabetes, there are clear factors that increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.
Being overweight, having prediabetes or gestational diabetes, a family history of diabetes, and physical inactivity all increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Prediabetes is not the same as diabetes
Having higher blood sugar than normal – but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes – is known as prediabetes. Prediabetes puts you at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
While people with type 2 diabetes almost always have prediabetes first, having prediabetes doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes damages your body
If left untreated, high blood glucose levels can damage the eyes, kidneys, and nerves, and lead to heart disease, stroke, or amputation.
You won’t always notice the symptoms
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be so mild that you might not notice them. Your doctor can test your blood glucose levels for signs of diabetes or prediabetes.
Diabetes affects nearly 10% of Americans.
Diabetes is a very common disease. According to the American Diabetes Association, 9.2% of the American population had diabetes in 2015. Many with diabetes are undiagnosed, and aren’t aware that they have diabetes.
Diabetes is becoming more common
The number of people with diabetes has increased steadily over the past three decades. The World Health Organization claims that 422 million people worldwide have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes in children used to be rare, but it’s increasingly common.
You can decrease your risk for type 2 diabetes
Diet and exercise are two things within your control that affect your risk for type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise can help your maintain a healthy weight and help your body regulate blood sugar levels. Cutting out sugar and getting more fiber, whole grains, and vegetables can also help decrease your risk for type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes can be managed
People who have diabetes can live long and healthy lives. Detecting diabetes early and managing the disease properly through diet, exercise, and medication is crucial. There are several tests that your doctor can perform to test for diabetes or prediabetes. If you think you may have diabetes, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor immediately.