Prevalence of Diabetes
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Over 34 million people in the US of all ages, or approximately 10.5%, have diabetes. An additional 1 in 3 adults have prediabetes. Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how the body uses blood sugar (glucose). Prediabetes is when your blood sugar level is higher than it should be but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.
Signs of Diabetes
Over 7 million people who met laboratory criteria for diabetes were not aware of having diabetes, and 90% of adults with prediabetes do not know they have it. The warning signs can be so mild that they aren’t noticed. Common signs are hunger, fatigue, frequent urination, dry skin, and blurry vision. Some people don’t find out they have diabetes until they have problems from long-term damage caused by the disease.
Types of Diabetes and Available Treatments
Chronic diabetes conditions include type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is another condition, and is potentially reversible. Prediabetes is often the precursor of type 2 diabetes unless appropriate measures are taken to prevent progression.
In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. The body breaks down carbohydrates into blood sugar that it uses for energy, and insulin is a hormone that the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, people can learn to manage their condition. By living a healthy lifestyle filled with exercise and proper diet, people can live a normal life and do everything they set out to do. Regular bloodwork and checkups with a physician are required to ensure that blood sugar levels are being well controlled and complications are not developing. Annual eye and foot exams are also part of staying healthy. There are always evolving new technologies that can help too. Maintaining close follow-up with a physician is the best way to keep informed about the latest developments.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, where the body does not use insulin properly. While some people can control their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise, others may need medication or insulin to help manage it. Eating well, being active, and controlling weight are important ways to manage type 2 diabetes. Technologies such as continuous glucose monitoring are increasing the quality of glucose checking and are improving health by supporting consistent blood glucose control. Again, regular follow-up with a physician will identify if new therapies or technologies are available.
How to Avoid or Manage Diabetes
The goal is to not develop diabetes in the first place. Making lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the risk of developing diabetes and prediabetes. For those already diagnosed with diabetes, these same lifestyle changes will promote health:
- Eat a healthy diet and lose weight (if indicated). Even small amounts of weight loss can help if overweight. Decrease saturated fat intake and manage carbohydrate intake.
- Exercise regularly– Ideally 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
- Don’t smoke. People who smoke are 30%-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers. People with diabetes who smoke are more likely to have trouble with insulin dosing and controlling their disease.
- Control blood pressure and cholesterol. High blood pressure and high cholesterol have been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes and can increase complications in those already diagnosed with diabetes.
- If medication is prescribed, take it as indicated. Medication is sometimes needed to manage diabetes, or underlying conditions that contribute to diabetes, and should be taken as prescribed in order to be most effective.
What to Do Next
If you have diabetes, establish a plan with your doctor for your treatment regimen and regular follow-up. There is a lot that is within your control and new therapies are emerging all the time. People with diabetes can lead long and healthy lives. If you suspect you or a family member may have diabetes, contact your doctor. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin. Your doctor can provide information about the programs offered by Nuvance Health and local community providers.
We know that COVID-19 has affected peoples’ willingness or ability to follow-up with their doctors. Nuvance Health Medical Practice is following precautions from state and federal agencies to keep you as safe as possible. In-person and virtual visits are available. We are here to help you however we can!
Your Nuvance Health Medical Practice Team