Get tested for diabetes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100 million American adults now have glucose levels high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes (30.3 million) or prediabetes (84.1 million), a condition that typically develops into type 2 diabetes within five years if left untreated.
Perhaps most alarming is the fact that so many people don’t even know they have these conditions: one in four people with type 2 diabetes (7.2 million American adults) live with it unaware; among those with prediabetes, 11.6 percent don’t know they have it.
Type 2 diabetes often develops long before symptoms become noticeable, and this is even more often the case when it comes to prediabetes. The only way to find out for certain if your blood glucose levels are higher than normal is to get tested.
That doesn’t mean that everyone should be tested for diabetes, however. Some people are at greater risk than others. Those who are overweight or obese, people with a family history of diabetes and women who had gestational diabetes or who gave birth to babies weighing more than nine pounds are at greater risk than others.
African Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are also at greater risk for diabetes than people from other racial or ethnic backgrounds.
Age is also a factor. The risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes increases as you get older, and the rate of diabetes reflects that. While only 4 percent of Americans ages 18 to 44 have diabetes, that number climbs to 17 percent for those ages 45 to 64 and 25 percent for those age 65 or older.
Diabetes experts recommend that anyone showing symptoms of diabetes (at any age) be tested for the disease. Symptoms, when they do occur, include frequent urination, feeling thirsty all the time, feeling hungry even when you eat, extreme fatigue, blurry vision, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal and tingling, pain or numbness in your hands and feet.
Testing for people who don’t show any symptoms should begin at age 45 and continue every three years, or more frequently if you’re overweight or obese and have any of the following additional risk factors: a parent or sibling with diabetes; a physically inactive lifestyle; an HDL cholesterol level less than or equal to 35 mg/dl; triglyceride levels greater than or equal to 250 mg/dl; a history of heart disease or stroke; high blood pressure; prediabetes; a history of gestational diabetes or having given birth to a high-birthweight baby (more than nine pounds); depression; polycystic ovary syndrome; belonging to one of the racial or ethnic groups listed.
Type 1 diabetes — which is typically diagnosed during childhood or early adulthood — is something you are born with. Researchers believe it is caused by a combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers but don’t yet know how to prevent it. Type 2 diabetes, however, typically (but not always) develops in adulthood. It is possible to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by losing weight, if you are overweight, and increasing physical activity levels.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE DIAGNOSED
If you have diabetes — or prediabetes — there are steps you can take to live a long and full life. But you may need to make some changes to your lifestyle, and you will need to actively manage your disease.
First, consult with your healthcare provider about putting together a healthcare team and developing a self-care plan. To properly manage your diabetes, you may need to see a variety of physicians and other specialists, including an endocrinologist, a certified diabetes educator, nurse, pharmacist, nutritionist, eye doctor, dentist, foot doctor and others, depending upon your current health.
Your healthcare team may recommend dietary changes and increased physical activity, depending upon your weight and condition. You may also need to take medication. Your team will guide you on your individual treatment needs and goals.
If you smoke, speak to your healthcare team about starting a cessation program. People with diabetes are already at higher risk for heart disease and stroke, but smoking pushes that risk even higher.
One thing everyone with diabetes must do is monitor blood glucose levels and strive to keep them under control. However, individual blood glucose targets may vary, depending upon your age and whether you have other conditions, such as heart disease.
Finally, if you are feeling depressed or overwhelmed by your condition, consider adding a mental health professional to your healthcare team. Many people with diabetes experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. It’s important not to ignore these symptoms and to treat them as you would any other condition.
The National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) recommends you see your healthcare team at least twice a year, or more if you are having problems.