Facts about diabetes – part 1

November is American Diabetes Month.

Diabetes mellitus is a disease that is difficult to understand. During the month of November health care professionals and partner agencies focus on providing information and resources to raise public awareness. Michigan State University Extension provides practical knowledge and skills for those who are at risk of diabetes and for those who live with diabetes. American Diabetes Month offers programs designed to focus the nation’s attention on the issues surrounding diabetes and the many people who are impacted by the disease. The International Diabetes Federation has designated every Nov. 14 as World Diabetes Day. By drawing attention to issues related to diabetes, changes are happening to improve lives and reduce health care costs for many people.

According to the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), more than 29 million Americans have diabetes, and it is estimated that one in every four people with diabetes are unaware that they have the disease. If diabetes goes untreated it can lead to serious health problems such as nerve damage, blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and death. Serious complications can be delayed and often prevented if this chronic disease is addressed early. The NDEP offers a short diabetes risk test to help people assess their potential for developing prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes and also to learn how to prevent or delay the disease.

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas is an organ near the stomach that makes insulin, a hormone to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. With diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes glucose to build up in your blood.

There are several types of diabetes, with Type 2 diabetes being the most common, and is increasing at alarming rates. Type 2 diabetes was previously called adult-onset diabetes, and it accounts for about 90-95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance. The risk for developing this type is associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes or history of gestational diabetes. People of a particular race or ethnicity, such as African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians, some Asians, and Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders are at a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes. For most people, Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease.

Although both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can occur at any age, only about five percent of diabetes cases are considered Type 1 diabetes. Previously called juvenile-onset diabetes, Type 1 is most often diagnosed in the mid-teens. To survive, people with Type 1 diabetes must have insulin delivered by injection or a pump. There is no known way to prevent Type 1 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is a form of glucose intolerance diagnosed during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Treatment is required to reduce problems for the mother and infant, but frequently disappears when the pregnancy is over.

Prediabetes is a condition in which individuals have high blood glucose or hemoglobin A1C levels but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. People with prediabetes have an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, but not everyone with prediabetes will progress to diabetes.

Learn about the common terms and myths of diabetes so that you have accurate information to make good health decisions that will affect your quality of life. For general information in English and Spanish, call 1-800-DIABETES or visit www.stopdiabetes.com.

Also see the Facts about Diabetes - Part 2 of this article.

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