Diabetes is more common than you may think. In fact, type 2 diabetes affects some 18 million Americans! That means that you, your relatives and/or your friends may have diabetes or have been affected by it in some way. But how much do you actually know about diabetes?
Here are 8 important facts about diabetes:
- Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to properly use and store carbohydrate or blood sugar.
- Diabetes happens when either the pancreas (an organ that helps with digestion and controlling blood sugar) does not produce any insulin or produces very little insulin, or when the body does not respond well to insulin, which is called "insulin resistance."
- There are two types of diabetes: type 1 (sometimes called juvenile diabetes) and type 2 (sometimes called adult onset).
- Type 1 diabetes occurs because the cells of the pancreas are destroyed by the body’s immune system. The typical age a person finds out they have type 1 diabetes is under 20 years old. There is nothing you can do to stop yourself from getting type 1 diabetes, but it is important that it is diagnosed and treated. People with type 1 diabetes can live long and healthy lives with careful medical management and self-care.
- Type 2 diabetes is when the pancreas does secrete insulin but it is not enough because the cells are resistant to insulin, so it doesn’t do its job as well as it should. There are genetic risk factors for type 2 diabetes but there are also many lifestyle behaviors that can be changed to reduce or even eliminate your risks for developing type 2 diabetes.
- Your healthcare provider will tell you if you have diabetes by looking at your blood and urine tests. Many providers will also try to identify when their patients have prediabetes (also detected with blood tests) so that they can reverse the condition before it becomes full blown type 2 diabetes.
- Diabetes can cause complications such as blindness, non-traumatic amputations, and chronic kidney failurerequiring dialysis.
- Once someone has a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, they may have to take certain medications and make changes to their lifestyle behaviors including nutrition and exercise.
While you can’t change all of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes (for example your age or family history), you can change some with the lifestyle choices you make. Staying at a healthy weight through eating well and being active is one of the best ways to avoid type 2 diabetes. Seeing your healthcare provider regularly so that you can have lab tests that will help identify the likelihood you will get diabetes is also important.
In recent years, scientists have linked diabetes to heart disease. In fact, diabetes is actually considered a risk factor for the development of coronary artery disease. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and checking in regularly with your healthcare provider, you can manage or even avoid type 2 diabetes.