According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29 million Americans have diabetes, and one in four of them doesn’t even know it. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease and can be managed through diet, physical activity and appropriate use of insulin and oral medications to lower blood sugar levels. American Diabetes Association Alert Day® is next Tuesday, March 28. It’s observed to help sound the alarm about the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in American adults by asking people to take the “Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test.”
The Importance of Detection
Diabetes is a problem with your body that causes blood glucose (sugar) to rise to higher-than-normal levels – also called hyperglycemia. Normally, your pancreas releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin, or the body doesn’t respond appropriately to the insulin (a condition called “insulin resistance”).
When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause two problems:
- In the short term, your cells may be starved for energy.
- Over time, high blood glucose levels may hurt your eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.
Type 2 diabetes usually gets worse over time – even if you don’t need medications at first, you may need them as the disease progresses. There is no cure for diabetes, but it can be managed. And many people with the disease live long and healthful lives.
Take the Test
The warning signs of diabetes can be so mild that you don’t even notice them, or the symptoms may develop very gradually over time. They include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger (especially after eating)
- Dry mouth
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss (even if you’re eating and feeling hungry)
- Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
If left undiagnosed or untreated, diabetes can cause significant health problems. See your doctor if you experience any combination of these symptoms.
The American Diabetes Association offers a free, anonymous risk test that can help you learn, in just 60 seconds, if you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes. Knowing your risk is the first step toward a healthier life. Take the test today.
Lower Your Risk
There are some things that affect your risk for diabetes that you can’t change, such as age, race, gender and family history. Diabetes occurs more often in Hispanic/Latino Americans, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders and Alaska natives. Men are also more likely to be at risk than women, and your risk increases if you have a parent or sibling with the disease.
Those factors aside, the keys to preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes are in your control: Stay at a healthy weight, eat well and be active. Research shows that you can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by 58 percent by:
- Losing 7 percent of your body weight (or 14 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds)
- Exercising moderately (such as brisk walking) 30 minutes a day, five days a week
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offers a game plan for reducing your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, including a list of 50 tips you can try today.
Living with Diabetes
If you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it’s important to take the disease very seriously. But it’s also important to know that you can live a healthful life if you take steps to proactively manage the disease. You’ll likely need to change some things about your daily routine, such as:
- Planning what you eat and following a balanced meal plan
- Exercising regularly
- Taking medicine, if prescribed, and closely following the guidelines for how and when to take it
- Monitoring your blood sugar and blood pressure levels at home
- Keeping your appointments with your healthcare providers and completing laboratory tests, as ordered by your doctor
The American Diabetes Association offers a healthy living guide that can help you manage your condition and avoid or delay complications. You can download the guide or even request that a copy be mailed to your home.
FirstLight Can Help
If you or a loved one needs support with your plan to live a healthful life with diabetes, FirstLight can help. Through our Companion Care Services, our caregivers can assist with medication reminders, healthy meal preparation and transportation to doctor appointments. They can also provide encouragement for getting active and can help with walks, gardening and other physical activities. To learn more, find a FirstLight location near you today. To get more health and wellness tips, follow us on Facebook.