Diabetes is an epidemic in the United States, affecting about one in 10 people according to the Centers for Disease Control. While this disease is unavoidable in some instances, in many cases, it is. November is American Diabetes Month, and it’s a reminder for everyone to learn more about this disease and steps you can take to avoid one form of it.
Understanding diabetes is the first step to staying healthy
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that occurs because your body either does not produce enough insulin or does not properly use it. Insulin is an essential hormone produced in the pancreas. Its job is to help break down carbohydrates you consume into glucose, a form of sugar that enters the bloodstream to produce energy for the body. There are three types of diabetes:
- Type 1: is known as an autoimmune disease because it occurs when your immune system attacks the cells that make insulin, which leads to no production of insulin, or low amounts
- Type 2: occurs when the body does not properly use insulin or doesn’t use enough insulin
- Prediabetes: occurs when your blood glucose levels are high but not high enough to be considered diabetic
There are known risk factors for each type of diabetes:
- Family history of diabetes, disease of the pancreas, and other illnesses that impact the pancreas can increase the risk of type 1 diabetes
- Obesity, family history, age, and high blood pressure can increase the risk for type 2 as well as ethnicity; African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans have a higher risk for developing the form of diabetes
Knowing your risk factors is the first step to avoiding this disease, but equally as important is knowing the symptoms. The American Diabetes Association notes that the most common symptoms are:
- Urinating often and feeling very thirsty
- Feeling very hungry even after eating a meal
- Experiencing extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Having cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
- Weight loss is common in type 1 diabetes even though you are eating more
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet is often common in type 2 diabetes
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call your doctor as diabetes needs to be and can be controlled, but a test will need to be done to determine if you have it, which means seeing your doctor.
Obesity is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes
When it comes to Louisiana, more than 35 percent of the state’s residents are considered obese. Obesity, or being above your healthy weight, is known to lead to many health problems; one of the most prevalent is type 2 diabetes. The most recent state study in Orleans Parish shows that nearly 12 percent of its residents have diabetes. If you are overweight and are experiencing any symptoms and/or have a family history of diabetes, you could be at risk for type 2 diabetes, but know, all is not lost. There are steps you can immediately take to prevent diabetes as well as other diseases. A few are:
- Develop healthier eating habits by choosing foods lower in fat and calories and high in fiber
- Eat more fruit and vegetables
- Drink more water and fewer surgery drinks
- Eat slowly as it takes at least 20 minutes for you to start feeling full
- Get moving; create an exercise plan that gets you at least 3 hours of physical activity a week
- Don’t smoke
- Properly lose weight so that you are more likely to keep it off. Losing 7-10 percent of your body weight can reduce your risk of diabetes.
There is no cure for diabetes, but following the above steps is the best way to avoid type 2 diabetes. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you will need to work with your doctor to manage it, but at the same time, you can also take steps to get yourself healthier despite having diabetes.