November is American Diabetes month, and it is an opportunity to raise awareness about the signs, symptoms, prevention and treatment of this chronic disease. According to the American Diabetes Association Web site, currently more than 20 million Americans and 246 million people worldwide are living with diabetes.
These staggering figures do not include the 54 million people in the United States alone that do not currently have diabetes, but are at high risk for developing Type II diabetes within their lifetimes.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body cannot properly produce or use insulin, which is needed to convert sugar into energy for the body to function properly. There are many different types of diabetes, but the two major forms are Type I and Type II diabetes.
Type I diabetes, formerly known as childhood-onset, is a condition in which the body cannot produce any insulin. Type I diabetes increases a person’s risk for many other serious conditions, including heart disease, nerve damage, blindness and kidney damage.
Type II diabetes, formerly known as adult-onset diabetes, is a condition in which the body cannot properly use the insulin that it produces, or it simply does not produce enough insulin. It is the most common type of diabetes.
Although diabetes affects people of all ages, races and backgrounds, some are at a higher risk of developing Type II than others. It is more common in the elderly, African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans/ Pacific Islanders.
The American Diabetes Association stresses the importance of proper diabetes control. It is vital for people diagnosed with diabetes to seek proper treatment. If blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol are kept under control, it can greatly reduce the risk for complications such as a heart attack or stroke. Also, routine dilated eye exams and foot exams can prevent other complications from diabetes such as blindness, amputations, heart disease and kidney disease.
Although Type I and Type II diabetes have different causes, both have two key factors that must be met in order for someone to develop the disease. A person must first develop a genetic predisposition to the disease, and second, something in the environment must trigger the onset of diabetes. Obesity is a very strong risk factor for Type II diabetes. It is most common in people who eat too much fat in combination with too little carbohydrates and fiber and also in people who get too little exercise.
Over six million Americans have diabetes and do not know it. Many of the common symptoms of diabetes can seem harmless, so often times diabetes goes undiagnosed. It is important to be aware of the symptoms and risk factors so that diabetes can be detected as early as possible.
Research shows that if symptoms are detected early and treatment is sought, it will lower the risk of complications down the line. Some symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst and hunger, blurry vision, irritability, fatigue and unusual weight loss.
Currently, there is no cure for diabetes. Since the late ’80s, the death rate due to diabetes has increased by 45 percent, while the death rates due to heart disease, stroke and cancer have declined. Currently, diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death by disease in the United States. Increasing awareness of the disease can help to prevent the continued development of Type II diabetes.
If you are at high risk for developing Type II diabetes, making changes in your diet and increasing physical activity can delay or prevent the onset of the disease. Eating healthier foods and getting 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week can greatly reduce the risk of developing Type II diabetes. To honor American Diabetes month, try one of these helpful tips to live a longer and healthier life.
Janine Fulginiti is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at JF619755@wcupa.edu.