Diabetes prevention, management is possible: Are you at risk?

Diabetes prevention, management is possible: Are you at risk?

Have you wondered if you are at risk of developing diabetes or if you have prediabetes? How much do you actually know about this disease and the other health problems it causes?

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems, such as heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems and kidney disease.

Many people do not find out they have diabetes until they are faced with problems such as blurred vision or heart trouble. That’s why you need to know if you are at risk for diabetes.

Most people with diabetes have type 2, which used to be called adult-onset diabetes. At one time, type 2 diabetes was more common in people older than 45. But now more young people, even children, have the disease because many are overweight or obese.

Today, nearly 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the population, have diabetes. However, one in four, or 8.1 million, people with diabetes don’t know they have the disease. Perhaps even more alarming is the fact that an estimated 86 million Americans 20 or older have prediabetes.

What is prediabetes? 

Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they usually have “prediabetes” that means their blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be called diabetes. People with prediabetes are more likely to develop diabetes within 10 years, and they are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes

There are many factors that increase your risk for diabetes. To find out about your risk, note each item on this list that applies to you.

  • I am 45 years of age or older.
  • I am currently overweight or obese.
  • I have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes.
  • My family background is African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Islander.
  • I have had diabetes while I was pregnant (this is called gestational diabetes), or I gave birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more.
  • I have been told that my blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are higher than normal.
  • My blood pressure is 140/90 or higher, or I have been told that I have high blood pressure.
  • My cholesterol (lipid) levels are not normal. My HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) is less than 35 or my triglyceride level is higher than 250.
  • I am fairly inactive – I engage in physical activity less than three times a week.
  • I have been told that I have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
  • The skin around my neck or in my armpits appears dirty no matter how much I scrub it. The skin appears dark, thick and velvety. This is called acanthosis nigricans.
  • I have been told that I have blood vessel problems affecting my heart, brain or legs.

If any of the items above describe you, be sure to talk with your health care provider about your risk for diabetes and whether you should be tested. The good news is that you can take steps to prevent diabetes or manage it. 

Diabetes prevention is proven, possible and powerful. Studies show that people at high risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing 5 to 7 percent of their weight. If you are overweight, that’s about 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person.

It has also been proven that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in persons with increased risk by losing a small amount of weight and getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, five days a week. In other words, you don’t have to knock yourself out to prevent diabetes. Remember that you are the most important part of your health care team!

To learn more about diabetes or prediabetes, contact the Chertow Diabetes Center  at 304-691-1000. Ask your health care provider about a referral for diabetes education or to our dietitian for prediabetes weight loss help. Most insurances, as well as Medicare, cover diabetes education.

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Gerry Bryant, RN, CDE

Gerry is a retired registered nurse, certified diabetes educator and former program coordinator for the Chertow Diabetes Center at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. She is a graduate of the St. Mary’s School of Nursing and previously served as director of nursing at Woodlands Retirement Community.

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