6 things you should know about diabetes

Who is prone to diabetes? And how can you delay or prevent diabetes? Here are six things you should know. Photo: Getty Images.

Diabetes is a long-term health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. A person’s lifestyle, as well as their ethnicity and family history, increases their risk of diabetes. Whether it is type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it is chronic. While there is no cure, treatment can keep your blood glucose in a healthy range.

The number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes has doubled in the past 20 years, according to the CDC.

Cecilia Jamieson is a clinical diabetes educator at UCHealth Diabetes and Endocrinology Care in Northern Colorado. She lays out the basics of diabetes, from genetics and lifestyle risks to prevention, so you can better understand—and hopefully prevent—this chronic disease.

Are there different types of diabetes?

Yes, there are 4 types of diabetes: type 1, pre-diabetes, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the cells that produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to replace the insulin they need by injection.

Type 2 diabetes tends to be more related to insulin resistance. Although there is often a decrease in insulin production, the body still produces some insulin. People with type 2 diabetes are usually able to control their blood glucose (sugar) levels through healthy eating, exercise, and medication. Because type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease, insulin is sometimes needed as part of treatment.

Gestational diabetes is when blood glucose becomes elevated during pregnancy. Managing gestational diabetes also involves healthy eating, exercise, and sometimes medication or insulin. The goal is to keep blood glucose in the target range during pregnancy to provide the best environment for the developing baby.

Pre-diabetes is when you have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but it’s not yet high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. It’s still a serious health condition, but it allows you to control your blood sugar levels, delaying or preventing type 2 diabetes. Just 5-7% weight loss can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%, which jumps to 71% if you are over 60. UCHealth offers a Diabetes Prevention Program for prediabetes, which Medicare and some insurance plans cover.

What puts us at risk for diabetes?

There are approximately 26 million Americans currently living with diabetes. Almost 95% have Type 2, while only 5% (or about 1.3 million) have Type 1.

Type 1 diabetes primarily affects Caucasians, but it can also affect Latinos and other ethnicities.

Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include🇧🇷

  • have pre-diabetes
  • be overweight
  • Be 45 years old or older
  • Having a first-degree relative (father, mother, or sibling) with type 2 diabetes
  • Be physically active less than three times a week
  • Have a history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or have given birth to a baby that weighed more than 20 pounds
  • Smoke

African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, some Pacific Islanders, and Asian American ethnicities have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

“You can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes with simple, proven lifestyle changes, such as losing weight if you are overweight, eating healthier and getting regular physical activity,” said Jamieson.

Pre-diabetes is extremely common, she said.

“One in three Americans has pre-diabetes, and 90% of them don’t know it,” said Jamieson. “Risk factors for developing prediabetes are the same as those for type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle changes that prevent or delay type 2 diabetes can also help prevent prediabetes.”

The National Diabetes Prevention Program, led by the CDC, can help people make healthy changes with lasting results. The Diabetes Prevention Program is facilitated by lifestyle coaches and is available through UCHealth.

Type 1 diabetes is believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks its insulin-producing cells). Risk factors for type 1 diabetes are not as straightforward as prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Known risk factors for type 1 diabetes include:

  • Family history. Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 1 diabetes.
  • You can get type 1 diabetes at any age, but it’s more likely to develop when you’re a child, teenager, or young adult.

“In the United States, Caucasians are more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes than African Americans and Hispanic/Latino Americans. Currently, there is no method to prevent type 1 diabetes,” said Jamieson.

The same ethnic groups with the highest risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes also have a higher risk of gestational diabetes.

Women are at risk of developing gestational diabetes if:

  • Had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
  • Gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 kilos
  • are overweight
  • Are over 25 years old
  • Have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Have a hormonal disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

“Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, but it increases the risk of having type 2 diabetes later in life,” said Jamieson. “The baby is more likely to be overweight or obese as a child or teenager and more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.”

Before becoming pregnant, healthy lifestyle changes, including diet, physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight, can lower your risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Does my family history or ethnicity influence my risk of getting diabetes?

Jamieson said that specific ethnic populations, including Hispanics/Latinos, have a higher rate of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Family history is also an important risk factor and should prompt early screening.

“The risk is especially high if the family member with diabetes is a first-degree relative – that is, mother, father or sibling,” she said. “This does not mean that developing diabetes is inevitable – even if you have a first-degree relative with diabetes. Lifestyle changes such as changing your diet, increasing physical activity and sometimes losing weight can significantly lower your risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.”

“That said, genetics can play an important role in development. Even if a person follows a healthy lifestyle, some people may still develop diabetes at some point in their lives. But those who have healthy lifestyles tend to develop diabetes later in life and sometimes not at all.”

Why should I care about preventing diabetes? Is it something I can get rid of as soon as I get it?

“You can manage diabetes and control your blood glucose values. You can even put the values ​​back into a normal range. But once you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it doesn’t go away,” said Jamieson.

Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. It can lead to other serious complications like kidney failure, blindness and amputation of a toe, foot or leg.

“People with diabetes spend more on health care, have fewer productive years and miss more days from work than people who don’t have diabetes,” she said.

Whether someone has Type 1 or Type 2, the quality of life is significantly better if the person effectively manages their diabetes. Otherwise, the risk of serious complications is greater. Learn more about managing your diabetes.

How do I know if I have diabetes, pre-diabetes, or am heading in that direction?

Symptoms of diabetes can include feeling tired, sluggish and having low energy. Other symptoms can include excessive thirst, frequent urination and blurred vision.

The only definitive way to know is to take the test. Your primary care clinic can help you with this.

Establishing a primary care physician can help you avoid or manage diabetes. Annual wellness visits with your primary care physician, including blood tests, will catch early signs of diabetes and pre-diabetes. Your doctor can then help you create a plan for preventing or managing the condition.

Screening for diabetes may include a fasting glucose test (do not eat or drink anything but water for 8 to 12 hours before the test) or an A1C blood test. If fasting values ​​are above 100 or A1C is greater than 5.6%, this could indicate pre-diabetes. If fasting values ​​are above 126 or A1C is greater than 6.4%. This could mean type 2 diabetes.

Can my child or I get diabetes from eating too much sugar? What are other misconceptions related to diabetes?

“There are many misconceptions about what leads to the development of diabetes,” said Jamieson. “A prevalent misconception is that eating too much sugar will either cause or lead to diabetes.”

Diabetes is usually genetic and can occur in otherwise healthy people. Unhealthy lifestyles can also increase your risk of developing diabetes.

“But nobody who develops diabetes should feel guilty or blame themselves for it,” she said. “There are many people who follow unhealthy lifestyles and have multiple risk factors but never develop them.

“It’s very important that people get the education they need to manage it. Those who actively manage their diabetes can live long, healthy lives.”

6 things you should know about diabetes

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