There are around 34.2 million Americans, about one in 10, living with diabetes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Further, an additional 88 million U.S. adults (that’s 1 out of every 3) have prediabetes or early diabetes and without intervention, many go on to develop type 2 diabetes.We talked with CU Medicine Internal Medicine physician, Dr. David Tanaka about the risk of developing diabetes, some early symptoms, and how to reduce or reverse type 2 diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a serious condition that causes higher than normal blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when your body cannot make or effectively use its own insulin, a hormone made by special cells in the pancreas. Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the sugar (glucose) from the food you eat to enter. Then, your body uses that glucose for energy.
It is important to note that there different types of diabetes – type1, type 2 and gestational.
Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age but occurs most frequently in children and adolescents. When you have type 1 diabetes, your body produces very little or no insulin, which means that you need daily insulin injections to maintain blood glucose levels under control.
Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults and accounts for around 90% of all diabetes cases. When you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make good use of the insulin that it produces. The cornerstone of type 2 diabetes treatment is a healthy lifestyle, including increased physical activity and a healthy diet. However, over time most people with type 2 diabetes require oral drugs and/or insulin to keep their blood glucose levels under control.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that consists of high blood glucose during pregnancy and is associated with complications to both mother and child. GDM usually disappears after pregnancy but women affected and their children are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes
While many may not experience symptoms there are some to be aware of that can develop early and may be a reason to make an appointment with a doctor.
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred Vision
Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors and Prevention
You can get type 2 diabetes at any age, but you are at a higher risk if you are older, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, are not physically active, or are a woman who has had gestational diabetes.
While diabetes occurs in people of all ages and races, some groups have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than others. Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as the older population.
The good news is that lifestyle changes and interventions can significantly reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes or even reverse a diagnosis.
Dr. Tanaka says just a little bit of exercise can actually make a big difference, “That’s something I really try to emphasize to my patients is that if they walk for 30 mins , 5 days a week, and lose a little bit of weight. They can decrease their risk of developing diabetes by more than half.”