November is National Diabetes Month

 More than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, and 25% of them don’t know it. Diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t have enough insulin or can’t use it effectively and blood sugar builds up in the blood. High blood sugar levels can lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and amputation of toes, feet, or legs.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes, and type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5%.

About 86 million people are living with prediabetes, and 90% of them don’t know it. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes is a serious health condition that increases a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. People with prediabetes have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. People with prediabetes who take part in a structured lifestyle change program can cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58%. 

People who have one or more of the following risk factors should talk to their doctor about getting their blood sugar tested:

·         Being overweight.

·         Being 45 years or older.

·         Having a family history of type 2 diabetes.

·         Being physically active less than 3 times a week.

·         Ever having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds.

Race and ethnicity are also factors: African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk than whites.

There are many possible complications related to diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and adult-onset blindness.

Diabetes complications and related conditions include the following:

·         Heart disease and stroke: People with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as people without diabetes—and at an earlier age.

·         Blindness and other eye problems: Diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels in the retina), cataracts (clouding of the lens), and glaucoma (increase in fluid pressure in the eye) can all result in vision loss.

·         Kidney disease: High blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys long before a person has symptoms. Kidney damage can cause chronic kidney disease, which can lead to kidney failure.

·         Amputations: Diabetes damages blood vessels and nerves, particularly in the feet, and can lead to serious, hard-to-treat infections. Amputation is sometimes necessary to stop the spread of infection.

For people with diabetes, healthy eating, regular physical activity, and medicines to lower blood sugar can help prevent or delay complications. It’s also very important to work closely with their health care team to receive diabetes education, regular checkups, and ongoing support to self-manage their health.

People with diabetes can live a long healthy life and self-management is key to success.

Jefferson County Health Center offers free blood sugar and blood pressure screenings each month along with free diabetes education classes. For more information visit our web site.