Over the last ten years the number of individuals living with diabetes in America has doubled. Of the 29 million Americans with diabetes, 8 million may be undiagnosed and unaware of their condition. Worldwide, diabetes affects over 380 million people, and the World Health Organization predicts these numbers will more than double by year 2030.
So, what is diabetes?
After you eat, your body breaks down food into sugars, more specifically glucose. In response to the glucose in your bloodstream, your pancreas releases insulin, which is the ‘key’ that allows glucose to enter your cells where it will be used for energy. This system doesn’t work as it should when you have diabetes–either because the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or your body’s cells don’t respond to the insulin like they should. This leaves you with consistently high levels of sugar in the blood. If left unmanaged and untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health complications, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease and more.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
The symptoms listed below are common in someone with diabetes. However, sometimes symptoms are so mild they go unnoticed, which is why regular screenings are important.
- Increased thirst and urination
- Rapid weight loss
- Dry and itchy skin
- Slow healing cuts and bruises
- Fatigue and irritability
- Blurry vision
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
Are you at risk?
Screenings for diabetes are recommended for people over age 45 and people of any age with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25, plus any one of the following risk factors:
- Being physically inactive
- Having a first-degree relative with diabetes
- Belonging to a high risk ethnic population (African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans)
- Having high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol or elevated triglyceride levels
- Having a fasting blood sugar that’s above normal
- Being a woman with polycystic ovarian syndrome or a history of gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 lbs.
You should undergo screenings every three years if test results are normal with more frequent testing as recommended by your doctor.
How do I reduce my risk?
Some risk factors for diabetes can’t be changed, such as your age and family history. However, making small changes to your diet and lifestyle can have a big impact on your risk.
- Manage your weight. Carrying excess weight is the biggest risk factor for developing diabetes.
- Get moving! Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on 5 or more days each week.
- Tune up your diet. Ditch sugary beverages and limit red and processed meats. Fill your diet with fruits and vegetables of every color, whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts and unsweetened drinks.
- If you smoke, try to quit. Get help here!
The theme of this year’s Diabetes Month is “Eat Well, America!” as the American Diabetes Association celebrates its 75th anniversary. They want to spread the message that eating well is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and enjoying delicious, healthy food helps with diabetes management. Each week, the Association will share nutritious recipes selected by chefs and cookbook authors for every meal of the day, including snacks and special occasion treats. Visit the American Diabetes Association website for more info.
If you are newly diagnosed or have questions about diabetes prevention and control, contact the Weis Dietitians at firstname.lastname@example.org or talk to your Weis Pharmacist.
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