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Diabetes and Your Health: What it Means for You

Diabetes and Your Health: What it Means for You



According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 37 million U.S. adults have diabetes — and one in five of them are unaware of it yet. What’s more, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the last 20 years and more than one in three adults are living with prediabetes. Managing diabetes is possible, though, and there are steps you can take to help prevent and treat some types of diabetes.

What are the Types of Diabetes?

There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational.

An autoimmune reaction that prevents the body from making insulin is believed to cause type 1 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that helps let blood sugar into the body’s cells to use as energy. Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults, and currently no one knows how to prevent this condition. Five to ten percent of people with diabetes have type 1 and must take insulin daily.

Individuals with type 2 diabetes are unable to keep their blood sugar at healthy levels because their body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin. Type 2 diabetes, which develops over several years, is the most common type and affects 90-95% of people with diabetes. Though typically diagnosed in adults, more young people are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can develop in pregnant women, even if they have never had diabetes. This type of diabetes typically goes away after the baby is born but can result in a higher risk of type 2 diabetes for both the mom and the baby later in life.

In this blog, we’ll focus on how to prevent, identify, and treat type 2 diabetes.

Risk Factors and Prevention

There are several factors that can increase risk for type 2 diabetes. You can be at risk if you:

  • Have prediabetes, meaning your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. One in every three adults has prediabetes.
  • Are overweight.
  • Are 45 years or older.
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes.
  • Are physically active less than three times a week.
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes or given birth to a baby who weighed over nine pounds.
  • Are an African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, or Alaska Native person. Some Pacific Islanders and Asian American people are also at higher risk.

Even if you have prediabetes, it’s not too late — there are steps you can take to reduce your chance of developing diabetes. Eating healthy foods, staying active, and losing weight can help prevent type 2 diabetes. Research shows that you can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by 58% by losing 7% of your body weight, or 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds, and by exercising for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Looking for the best foods for diabetes prevention and management? Try these recipes or create your own that include these superfoods:

  • Beans, particularly kidney, pinto, navy, or black beans
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, like kale, spinach, and collards
  • Citrus fruits high in fiber and vitamin C, including grapefruits, oranges, and limes
  • Berries that are packed with antioxidants
  • Tomatoes
  • Fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon or trout
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains like whole oats or quinoa
  • Milk and low-fat yogurt that’s also low in added sugar

Symptoms and Testing Options

Watching for symptoms if you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes is vital. Symptoms can include:

  • Frequent urination, often at night
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Weight loss without trying
  • Feeling very hungry
  • Blurry vision
  • Numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Feeling very tired
  • Very dry skin
  • Slow-healing sores
  • More infections than usual

Talk to your health care provider if you experience these symptoms. You may need to have a blood test. Kits are available to test for diabetes at home, but it’s best to have your health care provider perform your test at a lab.

  • An A1C test measures your average blood glucose over the past two to three months. No fasting is required. Diabetes is diagnosed with an A1C of greater than or equal to 6.5%.
  • A fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test checks your fasting blood glucose levels. This means you’re not able to eat or drink anything for the eight hours prior to your test. Diabetes is diagnosed at an FPG of greater than or equal to 126 mg/dl.
  • The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is a two-hour test that checks your blood glucose levels before and two hours after you drink a special sweet drink. This can help your provider understand how your body processes sugar. Diabetes is diagnosed at a two-hour blood glucose of greater than or equal to 200 mg/dl.
  • The random (or casual) plasma glucose test is a blood check at any time of day when you have severe diabetes symptoms. Diabetes is diagnosed at a blood glucose of greater than or equal to 200 mg/dl.

Managing Diabetes

Your health care provider can help you develop a treatment plan if you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This can include self-education resources, support services, and medication, if necessary. RMHP can also provide Members with tools and resources to help with managing diabetes. Remember: you’re not alone, and you have support on your journey to your healthy best.