November is American Diabetes Month. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 25.8 million Americans have diabetes. An additional 57 million Americans are estimated to have prediabetes, or higher than normal blood glucose levels.
Diabetes is characterized by high levels of blood glucose caused by inadequate insulin production (as in juvenile or type 1 diabetes) or insulin resistance leading to impaired production (as in adult-onset or type 2 diabetes). 90-95% of all diagnosed diabetes cases are type 2 diabetes.
People with diabetes are at much greater risk of developing chronic health conditions including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease and nerve disorders.
The risk factors for developing diabetes include:
- being over age 45
- having a family history of diabetes
- being overweight
- leading a sedentary or inactive lifestyle
- having high blood pressure
- having low HDL cholesterol levels
- having high triglyceride levels
- being of African, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American descent
- having impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose
As the wave of Baby Boomers ages and the obesity epidemic in the US continues to spread, the Centers for Disease Control projects that as many as one in three adults in America could be diabetic by 2050. The good news: type 2 diabetes can often be managed or even controlled with lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet and regular, moderate exercise (just be sure to follow these safety precautions for exercising with diabetes).
If you have any of these risk factors, be sure to consult with your physician and have your fasting blood sugar checked regularly. If you are not diabetic or prediabetic, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and getting regular physical activity can help you prevent this dreaded disease.
(photo credit: Alisha Vargas)