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About 40 percent of Americans ages 40 to 74 — or more than 41 million people — have "pre-diabetes," a condition in which people have higher than normal blood sugar levels but are not yet diagnosed as having diabetes

November: American Diabetes Month and World Diabetes Day

Diabetes is a condition which is marked by unstable blood glucose levels, most commonly known as blood sugar.  The disease results from a defect in insulin manufacturing or the mechanism of action involving insulin, or possibly both.  Diabetes can result in serious health complications and premature death, however, there are things a person can do in order to reduce the risk of developing the disease and decrease the risk of experiencing related complications. 

As of 2007, there were approximately 23.6 million people suffering from diabetes, which is 7.8% of the general population.  Cases of diagnosed diabetes total 17.9 million people and undiagnosed cases include come 5.7 million people.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), using revised American Diabetes Association guidelines, estimates that about 40 percent of Americans ages 40 to 74 — or more than 41 million people — have pre-diabetes.


The month of November is “American Diabetes Month,” and November 14th is “World Diabetes Day,” which is a critical time in which the country and the world puts the focus on the seriousness of diabetes and the resulting complications.  Complications from diabetes include; kidney disease, stroke, amputation, blindness and heart disease.  The campaign is designed to raise public awareness and educate people about the dangers of the disease and learn ways to prevent it.

Different Types of Diabetes and Symptoms

There are different types of diabetes recognized by the American Diabetes Association; the three main types are as follows:

  1. Type I: this is type happens because the human body is unable to produce insulin and the person must take injections.  An estimated 5-10% of Americans diagnosed with the disease have this type.
  2. Type II: this type of diabetes results from an insulin resistance and cells of the body are not able use insulin correctly, and it can sometimes be coupled with an insulin deficiency.
  3. Gestational diabetes: develops during pregnancy and affects approximately 4% of pregnant women and might precede type I or II.
  4. There are also other types of diabetes which can result from surgery, infections, medications, pancreatic disorders and other illnesses.

There are a set of certain signs and symptoms which can be associated with any type of diabetes.  The following signs are the most commonly witnessed in a person who has diabetes:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Constant thirst
  • Increase in hunger
  • Polyuria (Frequently urinating)
  • Unexplained fatigue

Diabetic Complications that Can Result in Death

There are a number of acute complications which can be experienced with controlled or uncontrolled diabetes, which can result in death.   Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a dangerous complication which requires emergency medical attention.  DKA results when low insulin levels in the liver cause the body to turn to fat burning for fuel purposes.  

The body releases ketones into the blood which decreases the pH of the body.  A person with DKA is typically dehydrated and experiences respiratory difficulties, abdominal pain, an altered state of consciousness, and when progresses causes hypotension (abnormally low blood pressure), shock and eventually death.

Another condition which can cause death in a diabetic person is hypoglycemia, or abnormally low blood sugar levels.  A person with hypoglycemia can experience profuse sweating, feel weak or agitated and display many symptoms involving the sympathetic nervous system activation.  Someone with a severe case of hypoglycemia can present with an altered state of consciousness which can lead to coma, seizures, brain damage and possibly death.

With chronic elevations of blood insulin levels a person can experience blood vessel damage.  The damage that occurs to small vessels can lead to microangiopathy (microvascular disease) which can cause any of the following life-threatening conditions:

  • Diabetic cardiomyopathy: damage to the heart which leads to diastolic complications and death.
  • Diabetic nephropathy: kidney damage which leads to the person experiencing chronic renal failure. 
  • Coronary artery disease: this condition can lead to heart failure, angina, stroke or heart attack.

High Risk Groups for Diabetes

Certain demographics are at a higher risk than others for diabetes.

These can be also based on genetics or behavior and unhealthy habits:

  • Certain ethnicities:  African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at a higher risk for diabetes.
  • Heredity:  Having someone in your immediate family (a parent, a sibling) with diabetes means that you have a higher risk.
  • Weight:  Diabetes prevention is just one more reason to avoid obesity and stay fit.
  • Inactivity: People who exercise have a lower risk of developing diabetes.
  • Previous History. If you have had gestational diabetes, then you are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • High Birth Weight:  If you are a woman who has had a baby that weighed more than 9 lbs at birth, you have a slightly higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Age:  Most people who have diabetes are in the older age groups: almost half (45 per cent) of persons with type 2 diabetes are age 65 and older.

How One Can Prevent Diabetes

Diabetes, while serious disease can be prevented by making some healthy changes in lifestyle.  A person should be more physically active and eat a healthy, balanced diet in order to maintain a healthy body weight and avoid becoming obese.  Healthy eating habits include adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to the diet, making healthier meal decisions, reading food labels and eating smaller portions.

Recent medical research has established that a moderate weight loss and regular exercise program can delay or prevent the development of type II diabetes among those at high risk.  With regular exercise and an increase in physical activity levels, people can prevent pre-diabetes and can possibly return blood sugar levels to normal.

The American Diabetes Association recommends a person follow a set of specific dietary guidelines in order to prevent diabetes.  Approximately 10-20% of calories consumed should come from protein, and approximately 70% of calories should come from carbohydrates and unsaturated fats.  The carbohydrates should be consumed in the form of complex and naturally occurring carbs such as those found in dairy products and fruits, vegetable oils and margarine. Less than 10% of daily calories should be comprised of fats such as animal products, coconut and palm oil.

Experts also recommend to decrease the risk of developing diabetes a person should stop smoking.  Smoking is particularly dangerous for people who already have heart and blood vessel disorders and increases the chances of life-threatening diabetic complications.  Limiting consumption of alcohol is also recommended, men should have no more than two alcoholic beverages per day and women should have no more than one per day.  If a person wishes to consume alcohol, experts recommend choosing white wine, light beer and other alcohol that is low in sugar.

Overview

Diabetes while a dangerous disease can also be controlled with diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.  For those who suffer from insulin dependent diabetes, taking injections as regularly scheduled, following a healthy diet and adhering to a regular exercise program, and following the advice of a licensed medical professional can help prevent many complications which can be caused by the disease. 

Medical researchers and scientists are constantly researching the disease to pinpoint a cause, provide better manage and treat the disease and located a possible cure.  In 1996, the Diabetes Prevent Program was developed with the goal of teaching others how to prevent or delay type II diabetes in those with glucose intolerance which increases the risk factors of a person developing the disease.

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