When we were children we learned to read with simple stories. Our first books were filled with colorful characters having great adventures – all in 20 pages or less. As our reading skills improved, the stories became more complex, and we graduated to chapter books. A chapter tells one part of the story – just a piece that weaves with the others until the full story is revealed.
And just like a book, your health also has chapters. Some seem to stand-alone – like the sprained wrist you had when you were 10. But, decades later arthritis develops in that joint, and you realize that chapter is still a part of a bigger story.
Such is the case with diabetes, which can lead to kidney disease, amputations, and blindness. According to the CDC, two out of every five Americans are at risk to develop Type 2 diabetes. Also, more than one out of every three Americans (86 million adults) have prediabetes.
Diabetes results when your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t process it properly. This results in a build up of sugar (glucose) in the blood. A prediabetic person has higher than normal blood glucose levels. This person is at a higher risk to not only develop Type 2 diabetes, but also suffer strokes and heart disease.
You have an increased risk of developing diabetes if any of the following apply:
- You are overweight and/or physically inactive
- An immediate family member (parent or sibling) is diabetic
- You are of African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American or Pacific Islander descent
- You’ve had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds, or you were diabetic while pregnant
- You have high blood pressure, low HDL, or high triglycerides
Paging forward in our book of health, we find the chapters of related illnesses: heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, amputation, and diabetic eye disease (which can lead to blindness). The American Diabetes Association states that hospitalization rates resulting from heart attacks and strokes were higher for those adults with diabetes (1.8 times and 1.5 times, respectively). Diabetes is also the leading cause of kidney failure. And, among adults age 20 to 74, diabetes is the primary cause of new cases of blindness. In fact, during 2005-2008, more than 28 percent of Americans (over age 40) with diabetes also had some degree of diabetic retinopathy.
So, what can be done? First, make sure you get a yearly physical so that you are aware of your blood glucose and cholesterol levels. If you are prediabetic, the CDC recommends regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and modest weight loss (5%-7%) to help prevent or delay the development of Type 2 diabetes. Try to walk a total of 30 minutes a day. Talk to your physician about a meal plan which is best for you. Don’t smoke.
With information and prevention, your book of health can have a happy ending.