Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high levels of blood glucose. High glucose levels may be caused from defects in insulin production, insulin action or both. Diabetes is the fifth deadliest disease in the United States. In fact, the death rate due to diabetes has been on the increase since 1987, while the death rates due to heart disease, stroke and cancer have declined.
Diabetes is a chronic disease and there is no cure. There are different types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, previously known as insulin-dependent or juvenile onset diabetes, develops when the body's own immune system destroys cells in the body, which make insulin. Insulin is a hormone that controls glucose levels in the blood. People with type 1 diabetes are dependent on insulin, either injected or delivered by pump, for survival. Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age but it typically occurs in children and young adults.
Type 2 diabetes, previously known as non-insulin dependent diabetes or adult onset diabetes, accounts for the majority of diabetes in United States. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body doesn't make sufficient insulin or when the cells in the body don't use the insulin properly. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in middle-aged adults, but recently more children and young adults are being diagnosed with this form of the disease.
Gestational diabetes, a form of glucose intolerance that is diagnosed during pregnancy, requires treatment to normalize maternal blood glucose levels to avoid complications to the infant.
People often become aware that they have diabetes when they develop one of the complications of diabetes such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease, nervous system damage, pregnancy complications and/or sexual dysfunction.
Diabetes can lead to serious complications and even premature death. Although there is no cure for diabetes, it is treatable. Diabetics can lower the occurrence of complications by controlling their blood glucose levels, their blood pressure and blood lipids.
However, even when glucose levels are under control diabetics have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Diabetics are also at increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney disease. The majority of diabetics have some form of nervous system damage. Severe forms of diabetic nerve disease contribute to lower-extremity amputations. Periodontal gum disease is more common in people with diabetes. Women who are have poorly controlled type 1 diabetes and become pregnant have an increased risk of having a spontaneous abortion and of having a child with birth defects.
People with diabetes have a higher risk of blindness than people without diabetes. People with diabetes are more likely to have glaucoma (increase in fluid pressure in the eye that results in optic nerve damage and loss of vision) and are more likely to get cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) than people without diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease, is a leading cause of blindness in American adults. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels swell and leak fluid; in others, abnormal blood vessels grow on the retina's surface. As more blood vessels become damaged, blurred vision may result.
Diabetics need to establish good eating habits, keep their weight under control, maintain an exercise program and take prescribed medication judiciously. Medical checkups are critical for diabetics.
In this WBAL-AM "Know Your Health" radio clip, Dr. Pinkstaff discusses diabetes and how to minimize your risk to becoming diabetic.
DID YOU KNOW?
The following increases your risk for type 1 diabetes:
- Family history
- People whose siblings or parents have type 1 diabetes are at a greater risk of developing this type of diabetes.
The following increases your risk for type 2 diabetes:
- Being over the age of 45
- Family history of diabetes
- Certain ethnicities such as non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives have a higher risk of developing diabetes
- Being overweight
- Being sedentary
- Having high blood pressure
- Having low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides
- Having impaired glucose tolerance and/or impaired fasting glucose
- At least 171 million people worldwide have diabetes.
- In the United States, 7.8% of people have diabetes.
- An estimated 17.9 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes.
- Approximately 5.7 million people in the United States are not aware that they have diabetes.
- A fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dl signals pre-diabetes.
- There are 57 million Americans who have pre-diabetes.
- A fasting blood glucose level above 125 mg/dl means a person has diabetes.
- Diabetes can lead to serious complications and premature death.
- Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% of all adult diagnosed cases of diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes is a form of glucose intolerance diagnosed during pregnancy.
- People with pre-diabetes can prevent or delay diabetes by losing weight and increasing their physical activity.
- Over 23% of Americans over age 60 have diabetes.
- Non-Hispanic white youth have the highest rate of new cases of type 1 diabetes in the United States.
- Greater than 14% of all non-Hispanic blacks over age 20 in the United States have diabetes.
- At least 65 percent of people with diabetes die of some form of heart disease or stroke.
- Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about 2 to 4 times higher than adults without diabetes.
- The risk for stroke is 2 to 4 times higher for diabetics.
- Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.
- About 60 to 70% of diabetics have some form of nervous system damage resulting in pain in their feet or hands, carpal tunnel syndrome and other nerve problems.
- Controlling blood pressure can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in diabetics by 33-50%.
- Blood pressure for people with diabetes should be lower than 130/80 mm Hg.
- Smoking can increase blood pressure and nerve damage in diabetics.
- People with diabetes have a higher risk of blindness than people without diabetes.
- Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among adults from ages 20-74 in the United States.
- Diabetics are 40% more likely to have glaucoma than people without diabetes.
- Diabetics are 60% more likely to develop cataracts than people without diabetes.
- Diabetic retinopathy (damage to the blood vessels in the retina) is the most common diabetic eye disease.
- Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in American adults.
- Anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes is at risk for diabetic retinopathy.
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