According to the American Diabetes Association, 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. In addition, the elderly community is at high risk, with 25.2 percent of people 65 and older, diagnosed and undiagnosed with the disease.
Fortunately, diabetes can be avoided by practicing various steps early on to prevent the disorder.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a disorder that causes the body to not produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar under control. The most common form is type 2 diabetes, which affects 90 percent of diabetics, and eight percent of the American population. Diabetes is a chronic and progressive illness that can lead to serious life threatening issues if left untreated. It is one of the leading causes of blindness, kidney failure, non-traumatic limb amputation, heart attack, and stroke.
Common signs of diabetes include blurred vision, unexplained weight loss, excessive thirst and urination. However, not everyone experiences these symptoms in the early stages of the disease, which is when intervention is important in preventing complications.
How can I test for diabetes?
The three common ways to screen for diabetes are checking fasting plasma glucose, measuring hemoglobin A1C, and performing a two hour glucose tolerance test. When testing, note that the normal value is 100 mg/dl for fasting glucose, less than 5.6 for hemoglobin A1C, and less than 140 for 2 hours of tolerance test.
If you have a returned reading of fasting glucose greater than 126, two hour checks greater than 200, or hemoglobin A1C higher than 6.5, then these are strong indicators of diabetes. Keep in mind, if your blood sugar number is higher than normal but below the diabetic range, then this means you may have glucose intolerance, fasting glucose impairment, or prediabetes. These all are things that increase your risk of developing diabetes in the future.
How can someone prevent diabetes?
Although diabetes is a growing problem in the United States, it is preventable, even at the prediabetic stage. Things such as weight loss, exercise, healthy eating, and medication (example being metformin) can decrease the risk. Someone overweight can reduce their risk by 50 percent by losing 5-10 percent of their weight.
Seek a healthy lifestyle by incorporating meals that are rich in vegetables, fruits, fiber, lean protein, and low in fat. In addition, aim for about 30 minutes of exercise a day, 4-5 days a week to help stay healthy.
Type 2 diabetes is preventable by practicing healthier lifestyle choices, like those mentioned above. Screenings and early intervention are important to avoid complications associated with diabetes, so if you notice any symptoms, talk with your doctor about being screened for diabetes.