Diabetes currently affects nearly 37 million Americans, and 96 million are prediabetic, according to recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Of these statistics, Diabetes was ranked number 7 for the leading cause of death and is the number 1 cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and adult blindness.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a long-lasting health condition related to the sugar levels in our blood. After we eat a meal or drink our favorite beverage the typical response from our bodies is for the pancreas to release insulin. This helps our body use sugar (glucose) as energy. For a diabetic, their body either does not produce enough insulin or the cells no longer respond to the insulin leading to higher blood sugar levels. Long-term high blood sugar is what leads to heart disease, kidney disease, and vision loss.
There are three main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes is autoimmune where the body attacks itself and stops the body from making insulin. More commonly identified at a young age and requires a person to take insulin daily. This is not preventable and 5-10% of people have Type 1 diabetes.
- Type 2 Diabetes is more common 90-95% of those diagnosed with diabetes will have type 2. This is preventable or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and weight management. This used to be more commonly diagnosed in adults but is now seen in younger populations.
- Gestational Diabetes occurs in pregnant women who were not diagnosed with diabetes before pregnancy. This typically resolves after the baby is born. It can increase the mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later and impact the health of the baby later as well.
Who to involve in your care?
It takes a team to help manage and care for diabetes. Often times your primary care provider (PCP) will be the one to recognize and diagnose diabetes. Lifelong management and prevention can include other knowledgeable people. The NIH provided a list of other healthcare professionals to consider including in your care including registered dietitians, nurses, certified diabetes educators, eye doctors, and podiatrists (for a more inclusive list use the link below). It is important to tailor your team to your specific needs and concerns, each individual is impacted in different ways by diabetes. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone in your diagnosis and taking care of your health now can help to improve outcomes later on.
For all of us, it is important to continue focusing on what we eat, getting exercise, and checking in with our doctors. In America 1 in 3 adults have pre-diabetes and 80% of those do not know that have pre-diabetes. That means there are millions of people that are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes but have no idea they are at risk.
There is no better time than today to start making small changes to improve our long-term health. Small changes lead to healthy habits.