Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the way your body uses food for energy. When you have diabetes, either your pancreas makes little or no insulin, or the insulin your pancreas does produce is not working the way it should. It’s a disease that’s lifelong, complicated and costly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national rate of adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes has increased fourfold since 1980. In Highmark’s service area, for example, nearly 9 in 100 adults in Pennsylvania have diabetes; about 10 in 100 adults in Delaware and more than 11 in 100 adults in West Virginia face a similar diagnosis.
Even more troubling is that type 2 diabetes — formerly known as adult-onset diabetes — has been increasing at this rapid rate along with the rise in obesity in the United States. Besides obesity, key risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
And according to the CDC’s 2014 Diabetes Report Card, type 2 diabetes can lead to other health problems, such as heart disease and stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-limb amputation. High blood pressure and cholesterol as well as kidney, gum, liver and nerve disease are other conditions associated with diabetes.
So what can we do to better curtail or control this disease? First and most important: lifestyle choices — including healthy eating and physical activity — should be on everyone’s radar screen. Being overweight puts you at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. If you’re a smoker, it’s time to quit. Smoking can cause type 2 diabetes and raises your risk by 30 – 40 percent. Kicking the habit offers a host of health benefits, not the least of which is better control of your blood sugar.
Whether you have been diagnosed with diabetes or not, it’s also critical to have an annual physical exam that includes glucose screening. Early screening and identification is a key factor in diagnosing and getting diabetes under control. Even mild high blood sugar (a fasting blood sugar of 100 mg/dL or higher, also referred to as prediabetes) can be a warning sign for diabetes. If you catch it early, you may be able to control it with diet and exercise.
But if you show up to your doctor with a blood sugar of 250 mg/dL or higher, you may already be at risk for serious medical issues related to diabetes. Leaving high blood glucose levels unchecked for long periods of time can increase your risk of complications.
If you have diabetes, check with your health insurer — many offer information through health coaches or online tools to help people with diabetes eat better, exercise more and quit smoking.
Being diagnosed with diabetes can be overwhelming. And while no one wants to have diabetes, the reality is it is very controllable with the right tools. These tips can help you be an active participant in your health care. And be sure to contact your health care provider or the American Diabetes Association if you need more information.
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