Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. It can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other health problems if it’s not controlled. November is Diabetes Awareness Month and it’s our opportunity to educate our customers about the risks and how you can prevent this deadly disease.
One in 10 Americans have diabetes — that’s more than 30 million people. And another 84 million adults in the United States are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. What is even more alarming is that 1 in 4 people don’t know they have diabetes.
There are two types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when your immune system, the body’s system for fighting infection, attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Scientists think type 1 diabetes is caused by genes and environmental factors, such as viruses, that might trigger the disease. They are working to pinpoint causes of type 1 diabetes and possible ways to prevent or slow the disease.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and caused by several factors, including lifestyle factors and genes. The good news? People who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes can lower their risk by more than half if they make healthy changes. These changes include: eating healthy, getting more physical activity, and losing weight.
You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are not physically active and are overweight or obese. Extra weight sometimes causes insulin resistance and is common in people with type 2 diabetes. The location of body fat also makes a difference. Extra belly fat is linked to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and heart and blood vessel disease.
Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which muscle, liver, and fat cells do not use insulin well. As a result, your body needs more insulin to help glucose enter cells. At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to keep up with the added demand. Over time, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin, and blood glucose levels rise.
As in type 1 diabetes, certain genes may make you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The disease tends to run in families and occurs more often in these racial/ethnic groups:
- African Americans
- Alaska Natives
- American Indians
- Asian Americans
- Native Hawaiians
- Pacific Islanders
Genes also can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by increasing a person’s tendency to become overweight or obese.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can start quickly, in a matter of weeks. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly, over the course of several years, and can be so mild that you might not even notice them. Many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms. Some people do not find out they have the disease until they have diabetes-related health problems, such as blurred vision or heart trouble.
Symptoms of diabetes include:
- increased thirst and urination
- increased hunger
- blurred vision
- numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
- sores that do not heal
- unexplained weight loss
In addition to managing blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, and not smoking, people with diabetes need to make healthy food choices, stay at a healthy weight, move more every day, and take their medicine even when they feel good. Research has shown that these efforts can dramatically lower the risk of many diabetes-related health problems, including heart, kidney, nerve, and eye diseases. Having a network of support can help people with diabetes cope with the daily demands that come with diabetes and help them be more successful in managing their health.
But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to diabetes care. Developing realistic goals, such as taking breaks for short walks during the day if you are too tired to be active in the evening, can help you manage your diabetes in a way that works for you.
Sometimes certain medicines can harm beta cells or disrupt the way insulin works. These include:
- niacin, a type of vitamin B3
- certain types of diuretics, also called water pills
- anti-seizure drugs
- psychiatric drugs
- drugs to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV )
- pentamidine, a drug used to treat a type of pneumonia
- glucocorticoids—medicines used to treat inflammatory illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, lupus, and ulcerative colitis
- anti-rejection medicines, used to help stop the body from rejecting a transplanted organ
Statins, which are medicines to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, can slightly increase the chance that you’ll develop diabetes. However, statins help protect you from heart disease and stroke. For this reason, the strong benefits of taking statins outweigh the small chance that you could develop diabetes.
If you take any of these medicines and are concerned about their side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.