Published by Claudia Giunta.
Did you know that more than 34 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and about 95% of them have Type 2 diabetes? Many people who have Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are unaware of their condition. Certain lifestyle choices can control some diabetes risk factors. Understanding the risks of diabetes can help you proactively implement healthy changes to reduce your risk of diabetes or delay its development.
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What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot properly use the insulin it produces. Put simply, diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Your body breaks down most of your food into glucose and releases it into your bloodstream. When your blood glucose (aka blood sugar) levels increase it signals your pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose. Too much blood glucose can remain in your bloodstream without enough insulin or the inability to effectively use it. This can cause serious health problems over time including heart disease and kidney disease.
Types of Diabetes
Here’s some insight into the different types of diabetes:
Prediabetes: Blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to qualify as diabetes.
Type 1: The pancreas produces no insulin.
Type 2: The pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or your body cannot effectively use it. When your body cells cannot respond to insulin it is known as insulin resistance. This is the most common form of diabetes.
Gestational diabetes: Pregnant individuals are unable to make and use all of the insulin they need. People with gestational diabetes have a higher chance of developing Type 2 diabetes over time.
Symptoms of diabetes may take years to notice because of how mild they can be. However, some symptoms can occur very suddenly.
- Feeling extremely thirsty.
- Needing to urinate more than usual.
- Feeling fatigued easily.
- Losing weight unintentionally.
- Having a blurred vision.
Over time, diabetes can damage blood vessels in the heart, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Diabetes can cause permanent vision loss by damaging the eyes’ blood vessels. People with diabetes also have a higher risk of certain health issues such as heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failures.
Uncontrollable Risk Factors for Diabetes
Risk factors that may increase the risk of developing prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes may include the following:
The risk of developing diabetes is significantly higher if you have a blood relative with diabetes. Ask your family about their health history and share the information with your doctor to find out what your family health history may mean for you.
Race or Ethnic Background:
If you’re of African American, Asian-American, Latino/Hispanic-American, or Native American descent, you may have a greater chance of developing diabetes. Race and ethnic differences in the epidemiology of diabetes may be influenced by access to healthcare resources, built environment, and several other complex factors.
As with a lot of chronic health issues, the older you are, the higher your risk for developing prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes generally occurs in middle-aged adults, however, there is an increasing rate of diabetes diagnoses for children and adolescents.
If you develop diabetes during pregnancy, there is a higher chance you will develop diabetes again later in life.
Controllable Risk Factors for Diabetes
You should be proactive about your controllable risk factors to help reduce your risk of diabetes. Controllable risk factors may include:
If you are overweight or obese your risk of developing diabetes is higher. The connection between obesity and diabetes is even greater in children and adolescents because many health conditions caused by diabetes (heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage) develop years after having the illness. Maintaining a healthy body weight through diet and exercise can help lower your risk of diabetes. Using a body mass index calculator and a weight management program can help you understand and manage your target weight.
Untreated high blood pressure has been linked to complications from diabetes. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg and people with diabetes and high blood pressure should maintain a blood pressure level of less than 130/80 mm Hg. To understand your risks, consider our 3D Body Scanner which provides insight into your health needs. Ways to keep your blood pressure under control include eating a balanced diet, limiting alcohol consumption, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and communicating with your healthcare professionals about the right steps for you.
A healthy diet is one of the most important controllable risk factors for diabetes. Make sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, skinless poultry, fish, and legumes in your balanced diet. Avoid saturated fats, foods high in cholesterol and sodium, and high alcohol consumption, and limit red and processed meats and sweetened beverages.
Regular physical activity helps lower insulin resistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening activity a week to improve your overall cardiovascular health. A brisk 30-minute walk five days a week can help reduce your risk of diabetes. Consider exercises that motivate you, such as a HIIT workout, a cycling class, swimming, biking, or running.
Managing your stress levels is important for your overall health. Consider mental health resources such as therapy, support groups, writing exercises, and meditation, and make time for yourself and what brings you joy.
Adults should aim to get between seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep benefits your whole body (especially your heart and brain), and improves mood, memory, and cognitive reasoning. Not enough sleep can negatively affect how you respond to insulin, what you choose to eat, and your mental health.
Smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Smoking can make regulating insulin levels more difficult because high levels of nicotine can lessen the effectiveness of insulin.
Taking proactive steps now can prevent or delay the development of diabetes. If you or a loved one already lives with diabetes, it’s important to keep the condition well-managed to reduce your risk of developing further health issues. Nova Vita is here to help improve your quality of life and take control of your health. Contact us today!