Why should I pay attention to diabetes?
People with diabetes have elevated levels of blood glucose that result from a shortage of insulin, a decreased ability to use insulin, or both. Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose (sugar) to enter the cells of your body and be converted to energy. It also affects how your body stores energy and uses fat. When diabetes is not controlled, glucose and fats remain in the blood. Over time, this can cause greater deposits of plaque in the arteries, which, in turn, leads to blockages in the blood vessels and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. If you have diabetes, it is critically important for your health that you keep your diabetes under control. The rate of death from heart disease is two to four times higher in adults with diabetes than those without. The good news, however, is that you can significantly reduce your risk of complications, including stroke and heart attack by controlling your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol.
What increases my risk?
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is usually diagnosed in people under 40 years old, and the cause is unknown. Therefore, the risk factors are unclear. Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in adulthood, and accounts for about 90-95 percent of diabetes cases. Common risk factors include low activity level, excess weight (especially around the waist), low levels of HDL cholesterol (under 35 mg/dL), high triglycerides (250 mg/dL or more), high blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or more), a family history of diabetes, gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, giving birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds, or prediabetes. In addition, people over 45 and of certain racial and ethnic groups (African Americans, Hispanic, Asian and Native Americans) are at higher risk.
What can I do to decrease my risk?
If you’re at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, modest lifestyle changes can be very effective at reducing that risk. In fact, a large national study found that losing just seven percent of body weight was more effective in preventing diabetes than taking metformin, a common diabetes medication. Eating less and being physically active are powerful tools in the fight against diabetes. If you’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it’s important that you work with your health care team to manage it effectively. Type 2 diabetes is a serious, chronic, progressive disease. It cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Eating healthy and being physically active remain the cornerstones. Taking medications as prescribed to control your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol is important to manage diabetes well and decrease your risk of complications.