Public Health Matters: Preventing diabetes - small steps, big rewards
What is diabetes? It is a disorder in the way the body uses digested food.
When we digest food it is turned into glucose, a form of sugar, which is the main fuel source for our body. For glucose to enter cells and be used for growth and energy, insulin must be present.
Insulin is produced by the pancreas, but in persons with diabetes, either the pancreas produces little or no insulin or the cells do not respond well to the insulin that is produced. Glucose levels rise, but are not available to the body to use.
There are three types of Diabetes: Type 1 (an autoimmune disorder that requires insulin), Type 2 (typically in older persons, develops gradually and is insulin-resistant at first, leading to decreased insulin production) and gestational (pregnancy related) diabetes.
What is pre-diabetes? This is when the amount of sugar in your blood is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Most people with pre-diabetes don't have symptoms, and a blood test would determine your glucose levels. If you are 45 years of age or older, your doctor may recommend a blood test, especially if you are overweight. If you are younger than 45, testing may be recommended if you are overweight and physically inactive, or if you have a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, have had gestational diabetes or additional medical or risk groupings.
Fast facts about diabetes: Diabetes affects 25.8 million people, 8.3 percent of the U.S. population. Of this 25.8 million, 18.8 million are diagnosed and 7 million are undiagnosed.
Around 27 percent of people 65 and older had diabetes in 2010. It is estimated that 35 percent of age 20 or older and 50 percent of age 65 and older have pre-diabetes.
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, a major cause of heart disease and stroke, the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and can cause lower limb amputations and blindness.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented. Losing weight (for example, at least 5-10 percent of your starting weight) can prevent or delay diabetes or reverse pre-diabetes. Cutting calories and fat from your diet, and increasing your physical activity to 30-60 minutes daily are recommended.
Physical activity helps your body use insulin. Type 2 diabetes is being seen in higher frequency in younger adults and children. Lifelong weight control and regular physical activity are the small steps that lead to big rewards.
For more information and to evaluate your personal risks, talk with your health care provider, and visit www.ndep.nih.gov.