Diabetes is on the Rise, But Prevention Can Help
Could you or a family member be among the more than 6.2 million people in the United States with type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in the Bay Area. As of 2007, nearly 8 percent of the population in Alameda County had been diagnosed with the disease, and nearly 10 percent had been diagnosed with prediabetes. These numbers represent significant increases over the past several years.
In addition to the people who have been told they have type 2 diabetes, up to 25 percent of the population has the disease, but is undiagnosed. If left untreated, the disease can lead to serious complications. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. It doubles your risk for both heart disease and stroke and may cause limb loss, blindness and kidney failure.
Who’s at Risk?
According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by the year 2050, 1 in 3 American adults may be living with type 2 diabetes.
This dramatic projected increase is largely due to increasing obesity rates and an aging population, but there are other risk factors as well. Those who have elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, are obese or inactive, or have a parent with diabetes are more likely to develop the disease.
Race and age are also risk factors. African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, African American women between the ages of 35 and 55 are more likely to have diabetes than any other group.
The risk for type 2 diabetes increases after the age of 45. However, recent studies have shown diabetes rates are increasing dramatically among a younger group. Between 1993 and 2006, the number of hospitalizations among 30- to 39-year-olds for diabetes-related ailments more than doubled, especially among women.
Women are also at risk for gestational diabetes, which develops in two to five percent of all pregnancies. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, but women who’ve had it are five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the next five years. Women who deliver a baby weighing more than 9 pounds are also at higher risk for developing diabetes.
Preventing and Managing Diabetes
What should you do if you are at risk for diabetes? Don’t wait to get your blood sugar checked. Diabetes can be diagnosed by a simple blood test. The disease can be controlled if recognized early and properly managed. And studies have shown it can be prevented in the initial stages or even reversed by changes in diet and exercise.
Type 2 diabetes is almost always a lifestyle disease. Your lifestyle choices substantially affect your risk for developing diabetes and your ability to manage it. To stay healthy, doctors recommend exercising for at least 30 to 60 minutes four to five days a week and eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
The advice for preventing diabetes is no different than the advice for staying healthy in general: eat nutritiously and exercise regularly. It’s important that we understand the serious consequences of living an unhealthy lifestyle. If you already have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to carefully manage the disease to limit the risk of developing complications, especially heart disease and stroke. Women whose diabetes is poorly controlled have more complications during pregnancy, including miscarriage or a baby born with birth defects.
Diabetes is most successfully managed when the patient is fully engaged in monitoring blood sugar, understanding his or her diet, exercising and taking medication as prescribed. For extra help and support, talk with your physician or participate in diabetes management classes and support groups.