Today is World Diabetes Day, a global awareness campaign focused on increasing access to diabetes education to improve the lives of the more than half a billion people with diabetes worldwide. In the United States, over 37 million people have diabetes and an additional 96 million adults are at risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes has a major impact on health outcomes and diabetes prevention, awareness, education and treatment are key in the fight against diabetes.
One of the first steps in diabetes awareness is understanding the three main types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes, often diagnosed during childhood, occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells responsible for making insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose in the blood. Those with type 1 diabetes must take insulin as a part of their treatment plan.
Type 2 diabetes, more commonly diagnosed in adulthood, occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin or the body’s cells do not respond correctly to insulin. Those with type 2 diabetes may or may not take insulin or other diabetes medications. Type 2 accounts for nearly 95 percent of diabetes cases.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy in those who don’t already have diabetes. Managing gestational diabetes is very important for the health of the baby and the mother. The majority of gestational diabetes cases resolve soon after giving birth.
What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include having pre-diabetes, being age 45 or older, having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes, a history of gestational diabetes and an African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, or Alaska Native background. Being overweight and physically active less than three times per week are also diabetes risk factors.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Diabetes symptoms depend on the severity of blood sugar levels and not everyone affected has symptoms. Common symptoms include frequent urination, excessive thirst, fatigue, increased hunger and unintentional weight loss. Other symptoms include blurry vision and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. It’s important to receive regular screening for pre-diabetes and diabetes, which starts at age 35 for those without risk factors. Seek medical attention for diabetes symptoms.
It may come as a surprise that in the U.S. nearly a quarter of those with diabetes are undiagnosed. When pre-diabetes or diabetes is diagnosed earlier, treatment can be accessed sooner to improve health outcomes.
The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes including a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Don’t know where to start? Here are four science-backed tips to help fight diabetes:
- Cut back on screen time. Swapping out sedentary television watching time for physically active time can help reduce risk of diabetes, heart disease and early death.
- Focus on a diet that is rich in fiber and lean protein. A diabetes prevention diet is based on whole and minimally processed plant foods (vegetables, fruit, grains, beans, nuts and seeds) and lean protein sources including poultry, fish and dairy.
- If you are at risk of developing diabetes, join a diabetes prevention support group. Ask your health care provider for a referral.
- Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption. Smoking and excessive alcohol intake increase diabetes risk.