What You Need to Know About Diabetes

Diabetes is a growing concern in the United States, where the number of adults diagnosed has more than tripled over the last 20 years. It is a long-term disease that affects your body’s ability to turn food into energy, causing excess blood sugar to stay in your bloodstream. Over 30.3 million adults have diabetes, but 1 in 4 doesn’t know it yet. At this time, there is no cure for diabetes, but there are several things you can do to manage it effectively.

There are three main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes – caused by an autoimmune reaction that stops your body from making insulin; only about 5% of diabetes cases
  • Type 2 diabetes – occurs when your body doesn’t use insulin well and has trouble maintaining normal blood sugar levels; the most common type of diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes – develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes

We will focus on Type 2 diabetes because it is the most common and can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes. Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Having prediabetes (blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not yet diabetes)
  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 or older
  • Having an immediate family member with Type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active less than 3 times a week
  • Previously having gestational diabetes
  • Being African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include frequent urination, increased thirst, increased hunger, blurry vision, numb or tingling hands and feet, fatigue, very dry skin, and an increased number of infections. They often develop slowly and can go unnoticed for long periods of time. This is why it’s important to know the risk factors and talk to your doctor about being tested if you are at risk. A simple blood test can confirm whether you have diabetes or not.

Dealing with Type 2 diabetes is primarily accomplished through self-management, with help from your health care team. Healthy eating and being active are essential parts of successful diabetes management. Your doctor may also prescribe insulin and other injectable or oral medications. It’s important to establish a healthy lifestyle, even if you are taking medication to help manage your diabetes.  You’ll also need to regularly monitor your blood sugar to make sure you stay close to your target level. Managing stress levels with regularly exercise, adequate sleep, and relaxation exercises is also important. Your doctor and diabetes educator can help you establish routines to make managing your diabetes easier.

For more information about Madison County Health Care System’s nationally accredited Diabetes Education Program, give us a call at 515-462-5218 or ask your provider for a referral.

We thank the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the information in this article.