Type 2 Diabetes: Are You at Risk?

According to federal health statistics, 79 million Americans over the age of 20 have prediabetes, a condition marked by blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. Up to 70 percent of these people will go on to develop fullblown diabetes, but shockingly, 90 percent don't even know they are at risk, primarily because prediabetes often has no symptoms.

In fact, as many as 28 percent of the 29.1 million Americans who already have type 2 diabetes don't know they have it, again because all but the most serious cases of diabetes may manifest with symptoms that seem harmless—like thirst and fatigue. People with type 2 diabetes have too much glucose (sugar) in their blood and not enough insulin to break it down. Large concentrations of blood glucose can cause irreparable damage to the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nervous system.

November marks American Diabetes Month, and the American Diabetes Association encourages you to be proactive and take steps to prevent prediabetes and diabetes. If not diagnosed early, prediabetes can cause similar underlying damage to tissue and organs.

The ADA has created a simple seven-question Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test, available at www.diabetes.org. You should be aware of the following risk factors:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • High blood pressure (above 130/80)
  • Insulin resistance
  • Impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose
  • Inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history of diabetes
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

How to Prevent Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes
The most effective way to prevent prediabetes and diabetes is to make some lifestyle changes. Losing weight (even a loss of just 10 to 15 pounds can be very effective) and maintaining a healthy weight can go a long way to reducing risk by as much as 50 percent. Adding regular moderate exercise for at least 20 minutes most days of the week can lower the odds by 70 percent, compared with people who remain overweight and inactive. In addition, eating a nutrient-and fiber-rich diet that includes fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains, as well as lean protein from various sources, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats, is important not only for reducing the risk of prediabetes and diabetes but for maintaining overall good health as well. Getting a regular checkup that includes blood glucose testing is also important.


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