Diabetes is a serious chronic disease that can be managed through lifestyle changes, medications and a close relationship with your doctor. Nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes and another 41 million are at risk for developing it. Whether you just found out you have diabetes or have been dealing with it for years, you can control your diabetes and improve your quality of life.
The basic definition of diabetes is having too much glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream -- glucose is essentially the fuel from your food that the body needs to function each day. However, in a diabetic person, the glucose cannot be processed properly and health complications occur. Insulin, produced by the body, plays a major role in health. It acts as a key, “unlocking” cells to allow them to utilize glucose as energy.
There are two types of diabetes:
Type 1: This type is typically found in children and young adults, in which the body does not produce insulin. This type is usually caused by genetics.
Type 2: This is the most common form of diabetes in which either the body does not produce enough insulin or ignores the insulin. Those with type 2 diabetes need to monitor their diet, get plenty of exercise and sometimes use medication to control the disease.
Are You at Risk?
Several factors can increase your risk for developing diabetes:
- Weight -- Being overweight or obese
- Inactivity -- Exercising fewer than three times each week
- Family history -- Any immediate family member diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
- Race -- People with African American, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian American heritages are at higher risk (the reason is unknown)
- High blood pressure -- Higher than 120/80
Common Symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes:
- Feeling very thirsty
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Feeling tired
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing cuts and bruises
- Tingling and numbness in hands and feet
- Frequent infections
Two Things You Can Do to Help Prevent Diabetes:
1. Increase regular physical activity -- Losing weight is only one of the many benefits of increasing your physical activity to at least three times each week. Physical activity lowers blood sugar and boosts your sensitivity to insulin -- which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range.
2. Adopt a healthy diet -- A diet low in fat, low in carbohydrates and moderate in salt and sugar will help you stay healthier, longer. Increase your consumption of fiber and whole grains and steer clear of fad diets that promise quick results. Instead, think variety and portion control as part of an overall healthy eating plan.