What You Do Not Know Could Hurt You
This article originally appeared in a health information newsletter
published by Clinton Hospital for members of the Greater Clinton community.
Chances are very good that you know someone with diabetes, perhaps even in
your own family. This chronic disease affects an estimated 18.8 million
Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. However, as
sobering as these statistics are, what is truly alarming is the increase in the
number of people who have diabetes and how few know they have it.
Diabetes nears the top of the list when it comes to the most common health
problems seen in local physicians' offices. As people get older, their chances
of developing diabetes increase, and almost one-third of individuals who have
diabetes do not even know they have it. A frightening statistic given that
diabetes can cause very serious long-term health problems.
Diabetes is a disease that causes blood sugar levels to rise above normal.
There are three main types. Type 1 or juvenile diabetes, Type 2, named
"noninsulin dependent" diabetes, and Type 3, often called "gestational
diabetes." Type 2 diabetes is the most common. Although Type 2 diabetes can
develop at any age, individuals who are older than age 45, overweight and
inactive are more likely to develop it. Heritage also may play a role as well.
Studies show that African Americans and Hispanic Americans are particularly at
risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Other risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include a family history of diabetes,
giving birth to at least one baby weighing more than nine pounds or having had
gestational diabetes. A blood pressure above 140/90 and high cholesterol are
also risk factors.
Left untreated, diabetes can lead to heart and blood vessel damage,
blindness, stroke, kidney failure and even amputations. This is why it is
important for individuals who are at risk to be tested with a fasting blood
Physicians encourage patients who are at risk for diabetes to get tested. If
caught in the ‘pre-diabetes stage,' modest weight loss and moderate physical
activity can slow the development of the disease and in some cases prevent the
disease from developing. For those individuals who already have diabetes, a
doctor-prescribed treatment program of medications, dietary changes and insulin
injections, if needed, can help keep the disease in check.
Preventing Type 2 diabetes is critical to your long-term health. It is not
something to ignore thinking "it will never happen to me." Get tested, and take
control of your health.