Having diabetes means you have too much sugar—called glucose—in your blood. If untreated, diabetes can harm the body, particularly the heart and vascular system. In fact, people with diabetes are two-to-four times more likely to have heart disease or suffer a stroke than those who don’t have the disease. Experts say this risk is even greater for women with diabetes.
Diabetes can lead to heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, blindness, dental disease, amputations, and other serious health problems. And the longer you have high levels of blood glucose traveling around your body, the more likely you are to have problems.
If you have diabetes, the best thing you can do is learn about how to manage your condition and prevent problems.
Diabetes develops when the body either:
Insulin is a hormone that is usually made in the pancreas. It helps your body use the sugars that are in the foods we eat. Glucose gives your body energy, and insulin helps carry glucose to your cells.
If the body doesn’t make or use insulin well, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by cells in the body. The body’s cells are then starved of energy, despite high blood glucose levels.
Diabetes affects a lot of people. Nearly 30 million Americans are living with diabetes, yet about 1 in 4 don’t know they have it. A recent study estimates nearly half of U.S. adults have diabetes or prediabetes, a condition when blood sugar is elevated but is not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes.
There are three types of diabetes:
There is also growing concern over prediabetes. People with prediabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and stroke. The good news is that you can take steps to prevent or delay the onset of full-blown diabetes. Some studies find that losing weight—just 5-to-10% of your starting weight—can delay or even reverse prediabetes.
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that needs to be managed to stay healthy. Over time, too much glucose in the blood can cause serious problems including:
Am I at risk?
There are a number of things that can make someone more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. For example:
Type 2 diabetes is also more common among certain ethnic/racial groups including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders.
It’s important to talk with your doctor about all of your personal risk factors.
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What are the signs and symptoms?
According to the American Diabetes Association, about 7 million people in the U.S. have undiagnosed diabetes; but symptoms are often present. Still, some people have no signs.
Common signs and symptoms include:
How it’s diagnosed
Diabetes is diagnosed by taking a detailed medical history, including a report of symptoms, and blood tests that measure the amount of glucose in the blood or how your body handles it.
There are several types of blood tests to check your sugar level:
There are a number of things you can do to help manage your diabetes and live a healthier life. It’s very important to take steps that will help you to keep your blood sugar level low. This is most often achieved through a combination of:
Diabetes treatments aim to:
The American Diabetes Association has set the following blood glucose targets for people with diabetes. Your health care team will work with you to set your personal blood glucose goals and map out a course of treatment that’s best for you.
70 to 130 mg/dL
1 to 2 Hours After the Start of a Meal:
Less than 180 mg/dL
HbA1c/A1c is also used to give an average blood glucose level over the past three months. Target A1c for people with diabetes should be less than 7%.