Diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by high levels of blood sugar. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 8.3% of the population, have diabetes. Of this number, 7 million are undiagnosed. Among seniors, 10.9 million, or 26.9% of all persons over the age of 65, have diabetes. It affects both men and women alike.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but it is most often diagnosed in children, teens or young adults. This disease results from the body’s failure to produce insulin (a hormone that regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body) and requires the person to inject insulin. The exact cause is unknown.
Type 2 diabetes makes up majority of the diabetes cases. It occurs in adulthood, but teens are now being diagnosed with it because of high obesity rates. It results from insulin resistance, a condition in which the body’s cells fail to use insulin properly.
Common symptoms of diabetes:
- Frequent urination
- Sudden weight loss
- Unusual thirst
- Increased hunger
- Blurred vision
- Wounds that are difficult to heal
- Frequent infections
- Tingling or numbness of hands and feet
How is diabetes diagnosed?
Blood testing of fasting blood glucose, oral glucose tolerance test or Hemoglobin A1 test is use to diagnose diabetes. A fasting blood glucose of 126 or higher is indicative of diabetes.
Are lifestyle modifications effective?
Lifestyle modifications, such as a healthy diet and exercise regimen, can be a very effective way to keep diabetes in control. Multiple small changes can lead to improvements in diabetes control, including a decreased need for medication.
The Plate Method encourages persons to eat their meals filling ½ their plate with fruits and vegetables, ¼ carbohydrates (starch) and ¼ lean protein.
What are the complications of diabetes?
Long-term complications include heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, neuropathy, eye diseases and peripheral vascular disease. These complications can seriously affect the quality of life of persons with diabetes.
How can a person prevent complications from diabetes?
Improved blood sugar control can slow the progression of long-term complications. Good control of blood pressure and cholesterol is needed. Any medications the physician prescribes to control these conditions need to be taken consistently. Take an aspirin once a day. Seek out dental care at the first sign of infection or other dental issues. Brush and floss daily. Check feet regularly and wear good footwear. Yearly eye exam to check vision is recommended. Reduce stress as much as possible. Quitting smoking is the best decision a person can make to improve their health.