As the prevalence of diabetes continues to rise, it’s becoming known as the new silent killer. And because about 10% of all adult emergency room visits stem from diabetes-related symptoms or complications, what you don’t know about diabetes could hurt you … or even kill you. So, with the close of the American Diabetes Month in November, there’s never been a better time to know more about diabetes, what to watch for, and how to live vibrantly with it.
Why awareness matters
In the United States, an estimated 84 million people live with diabetes, and in addition to being one of the leading causes of trips to the emergency room or urgent care, it’s also one of the leading causes of death. Because symptoms often don’t appear until the condition is somewhat advanced, many people have diabetes or pre-diabetes and don’t even know it.
Who’s most at risk
Advancing age puts people at risk for type 2 (adult onset) diabetes, as more than 85% of those with diabetes are age 45 or older. You’re at high risk for diabetes if you are overweight, lead a sedentary lifestyle, or if diabetes runs in your family.
Children and young adults are more often diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which tends to run in families. Pregnant women can get gestational diabetes and are typically tested for it near the end of the second trimester.
What you can do
If you have any risk factors for type 2 diabetes, get tested regularly. All that’s needed is a simple blood test. If the results show you have diabetes or pre-diabetes but have not yet experienced symptoms, this gives you an early opportunity to get the disease under control.
In addition to following orders from your primary care physician, the following tips can also help:
- Think of food as fuel for a healthy lifestyle. Too often, people who need to lose weight in order to get their diabetes (or risk for it) in check head straight into the latest fad diet. While such diets may help you have a short-term success, they are often so restrictive that most people can’t – and shouldn’t – stick with them for the long term. Instead of depriving yourself, plan your meals to include healthy fats, whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of vegetables and fruits. You’ll feel satisfied and be able to stick with it for life.
- Get preventive care. Keeping a regular schedule of checkups can help your primary care physician identify subtle symptoms or problems lurking in the background – so you can address them early and avoid trips to urgent care or the emergency room.
- Increase your physical activity in manageable steps. Find small opportunities for adding activity to your day, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator – or parking at the back of the lot and walking farther. Gradually adding more and more exercise to your routine is the best way to incorporate it into your lifestyle for good.
The best news about type 2 diabetes is that it can be reversed – with the right care and lifestyle. So be aware of your risks and talk to your doctor about any concerns you might have.