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American Diabetes Month: Signs, Symptoms and How to Protect Yourself

One in five Americans who have diabetes don’t know it. As we recognize American Diabetes Month this November, we want to raise awareness of this disease and share steps you can take to prevent it. This is particularly important for older Americans, where healthy living is paramount. 

What is diabetes?

The term diabetes encompasses two main types:

  • With type 1, the body does not produce insulin. The body needs insulin to get glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. Insulin therapy and other treatments can help manage this condition.
  • Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, occurs when the body doesn’t properly use insulin. Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their condition with diet and exercise, but others need medication or insulin to manage it.

Am I at risk?

While anyone can be affected by diabetes, the risk of Type 2 diabetes goes up with these factors:

  • Weight. The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin, according to the Mayo Clinic.
  • Waist size. A large waist can indicate insulin resistance.
  • Diet. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and olive oil is associated with a lower risk of prediabetes.
  • Inactivity. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up sugar for energy and makes the body use insulin more effectively.
  • Age. The risk of prediabetes increases after age 45.
  • Family history. Your risk of prediabetes increases if you have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes.
  • Race or ethnicity. Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian American people are more likely to develop prediabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes. If you had diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes), you and your child are at higher risk of developing prediabetes.  
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome. Women with this common condition have a higher risk of prediabetes.
  • Sleep. People with obstructive sleep apnea have an increased risk of insulin resistance.
  • Tobacco smoke. Smoking may increase insulin resistance.  

If you have pre-diabetes, meaning you have higher than normal blood sugar, you should take action to lower your risk. Pre diabetes does not have symptoms; however, signs that you may be moving from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Excess hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision

Take a type 2 diabetes risk test from the American Diabetes Association: it takes just 60 seconds. Use this test as a starting point for a discussion with your primary care physician.

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