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All About Diabetes

posted Feb 2, 2011, 7:27 PM by Caitlin Paul

November is diabetes awareness month, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to give you some information about this increasingly common disease. Take a moment to ask yourself: How much do I really know about diabetes? What would it mean if I were to get diabetes? What can I do to decrease my risk? Keep reading to find the answers!

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is actually a group of diseases where the body is unable to properly digest glucose (the main source of energy for our cells from carbohydrates) due to an inability to produce and/or use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is necessary for absorbing glucose from the blood stream so that it can be broken down to give us energy.

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. The symptoms are similar for both types, but what is happening at the molecular level is different, and so they are treated differently. To read more about the different types, see the links at the bottom of the page.

Diabetes statistics

According to the American Diabetes Association,

  • 7.8% of the population has diabetes (that’s more than 1 in 13 people!) and the rate is even higher in people of color:
    • 6.6% of non-Hispanic whites and 7.5% of Asian Americans compared to 11.8% of non-Hispanic blacks and 10.4% of Hispanics
  • Over 3.5 times as many people (62.7 million) have undiagnosed diabetes or pre-diabetes, which means that they have borderline high levels of glucose in their blood that is not being absorbed.
  • For people under the age of 20, the rate is much lower (0.22% of this age group), but the rates are increasing steadily.
  • For people over the age of 20, 10.7% have diabetes.

Symptoms

People with diabetes experience none or all of the following symptoms:

Frequent urination – Unusual thirst -  Extreme hunger – Unusual weight loss – Extreme fatigue and Irritability – Frequent infections – Blurred vision – Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal – Tingling/numbness in the hands/feet – Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections

Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed at an early age, because it is caused by genetic factors alone. Type 2 diabetes is much more common and develops as your body tries to accommodate for high levels of glucose in your diet. You could be at risk for type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Have hypertension
  • Have a family history of diabetes (your mom, dad, sibling, or grandparent has it)
  • Don’t exercise regularly

For an easy tool to assess your level of risk, try this easy, quick test from the American Diabetes Association

So what does this mean for YOU?

If you were to be diagnosed with diabetes, you would have the opportunity to treat it with exercise, changes in your diet, insulin and possibly other medication to avoid complications such as kidney failure, blindness or heart disease. Without proper treatment, these complications can be life-threatening. Everyone can reduce their risk of being diagnosed with diabetes by exercising more and eating healthfully.

Links

For more information on diabetes, diabetes management or to learn about ways to eat better, visit the health center, join the Lunch Bunch group and/or visit these informative links:

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