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What is Diabetes, and How Can I Prevent or Manage It?

Diabetes is an incredibly common condition in the United States. In 2017, the CDC reported that over 100 million Americans were either diabetic or prediabetic. But, what does this mean? We hear about diabetes and the different types of diabetes all the time, but for some, it’s just words that Wilford Brimley used to pronounce kind of funny in commercials. While those commercials did become something of a meme online, diabetes should be taken seriously. It can majorly affect your life, if you’re not careful.

Today, we’re going to look into what diabetes is, what to watch for, and ways you can prevent or limit the impact diabetes can have on you. If you feel that you may be at risk of developing diabetes or that you have the condition, please discuss your options with your primary care physician.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that is defined by how your body is able to utilize food for energy. Generally, it comes down to how much insulin your body produces or uses, which in turn influences your blood sugar levels. Insulin is the hormone that signals your body to use sugar for energy. If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t produce insulin or doesn’t use the insulin you have as well as it should. When you don’t create or use insulin correctly, your body can’t tell your cells to use the sugar for energy, causing a buildup of sugar in the blood. This is why we determine diabetes by measuring your blood sugar levels. Over time, this can lead to many health complications.

Type 1 Diabetes

There are three prominent types of diabetes that we should discuss. First is type 1 diabetes, which was previously known as juvenile diabetes due to its prevalence in youths and young adults. However, it can develop at any age. Type 1 diabetes can be an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the pancreas (which creates insulin), causing it to cease making insulin (or enough insulin). It could also be caused by genetics or exposure to viruses or other environmental factors leading to the pancreas to produce little or no insulin.

Type 2 Diabetes

The most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes, which is caused by your body’s cells developing insulin resistance. As your cells require more and more insulin, your pancreas can’t keep up, leading to increased blood sugar levels.

Gestational Diabetes

The third type of diabetes is called gestational diabetes. This refers to women who develop diabetes during pregnancy through a change in hormones leading to insulin resistance. Their bodies can’t make enough insulin during pregnancy. This type of diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born.

Prediabetes

Finally, there’s a fourth distinction that’s worth knowing. Prediabetes is the state of having raised blood sugar levels but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Many people who are diabetic or prediabetic aren’t aware they are, which makes regular checkups like a Medicare Wellness Visit important. There are some symptoms worth noting for diabetes (often more intense in type 1 than in type 2). Some symptoms of diabetes may present as increased hunger and thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, irritability, blurred vision, or frequent sores or infections.

Diabetes can lead to a host of serious conditions like vision loss or heart disease.

If not managed, diabetes can lead to a host of serious conditions, such as vision loss through cataracts, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy. Sometimes, diabetes can also lead to cardiovascular disease and other heart conditions, since the condition can damage your cardiovascular system over time. Another common complication with diabetes is kidney disease. These are only a few of the related conditions for diabetes, many of which are serious. This is why prevention or management of diabetes is so important.

How to Prevent Diabetes

Currently, there is no cure for diabetes, though it can go into remission. Since it’s presently incurable, we’re left with either preventing or managing the condition. Of the three, type 2 diabetes is the most common but possibly the most preventable. Risks of developing the condition are often linked to family history and age (which you can’t do much about), a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity.

Making smart lifestyle choices can significantly improve your chances of avoiding diabetes down the road.

That’s why making smart lifestyle choices can significantly improve your chances of avoiding diabetes down the road. Losing weight and regular exercise are chief among these changes, but so is finding a healthy diet. If you smoke, you should also quit, since people who smoke are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who don’t smoke. You may also want to cut back on drinking alcohol, though you may not have to completely cut it out.

How to Manage Diabetes

If you do have diabetes, management becomes your focus. For people with type 1 diabetes, your doctor may suggest you begin receiving insulin treatments to ensure your body has enough of the hormone to regulate blood sugar. There’s also the possibility that you may take diabetes medication to help manage your blood sugar.

Since diabetes is a long term condition, it may be worth finding a DSMES program near you.

You should also regularly test your blood sugar levels. Since diabetes is a long term condition, it may be worth finding a Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) program near you. You should also work closely with your doctor to develop a diabetes management plan so you can monitor and control the condition.

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While diabetes is very common, and is certainly a serious condition, there’s a silver lining that we can grasp. It’s possible to manage the condition without it becoming a massive detriment to your quality of life. With that in mind, by working with your doctor and educating yourself, you can keep yourself healthier, and you can keep diabetes from causing you serious illnesses. Better yet, you may even prevent this disease!