Woman with diabetes is using an insulin pen near her hip.Diabetes is a rising problem in the U.S. today.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

estimates more than 30 million adults have been diagnosed with diabetes.  Another 7 million adults meet the laboratory criteria for diabetes but are not aware they have the condition.  The American Diabetes Association (ADA) cites diabetes as the 7th leading cause of death in America.  Since November is Diabetes Awareness Month, let’s examine what causes diabetes and what the health implications are for those with the disease.

Diabetes is a disorder that causes elevated blood sugar levels.  Our bodies break down the carbohydrates we eat into glucose.  The pancreas releases a hormone called insulin that allows glucose to enter the cells and be used as energy by the body.  When there isn’t enough insulin, or the body is unable to use insulin to effectively manage the glucose levels, symptoms of diabetes will manifest.

Some symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst and urination, increased hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, sores that are slow to heal, unexplained weight loss, and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.  Not all people will experience all symptoms.  The symptoms may start quickly or develop slowly over time.

The two most common forms of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.  Type 1 diabetes most often develops in children and young adults.  People with this type of diabetes must take insulin because their body no longer produces its own.  They may also need to take other medications to help regulate their glucose levels.

Type 2 diabetes is more common.  In this case the body may not make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin effectively.  This may be called insulin resistance.  The onset of type 2 diabetes is usually middle age or older.  Poor lifestyle choices can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.

healthy food for diabetics Risk factors for the disease include a family history of diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, age, and ethnic background.  Diabetes occurs more often in individuals with Hispanic, African American, Asian, Native American, and Pacific Island heritage.  Although we can’t control some of the risk factors, making good lifestyle choices can help prevent diabetes.  Choices to manage include eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and managing blood pressure.  Diabetes can lead to serious health-related problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, liver disease, eye disease, nerve problems, and foot problems.