Dodging Diabetes: Are You at Risk?

The Reality

  • In the United States, 23.6 million people, eight percent of the population, have diabetes. Of these, over five million do not know they have the disease.
  • The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has risen from 1.5 million in 1958 to 17.9 million in 2007, an increase of epidemic proportions.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the body either does not produce enough insulin, produces no insulin or has cells that do not respond properly to the insulin that is produced. Your body needs insulin to convert food to energy. Without enough insulin, glucose (sugar) from the food you eat builds up in the bloodstream, causing high blood glucose levels. Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage the nerves, eyes, kidneys, heart and blood vessels. This damage can lead to other serious health problems such as heart or kidney disease.

There are three types of diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, your body can’t make insulin. If you have type 1 diabetes, you need to take insulin every day because your pancreas doesn’t produce it. In type 2 diabetes, your body can’t use insulin properly. It “resists” the action of insulin. It is difficult for glucose to get into your body’s cells, so it stays in your blood. Over time, your pancreas makes less insulin. This is why people who have type 2 diabetes make need to take insulin. Gestational diabetes may occur during pregnancy. Women need extra insulin when they are pregnant because of hormonal changes. Some women can’t make more insulin to meet this need. Their glucose goes up and they develop gestational diabetes. After her baby is born, a woman’s glucose levels usually return to normal.

Are You at Risk?

The risk factors for type 1 diabetes are uncertain, though family history seems to play a role. The risk factors for type 2 diabetes are:

  • Family history of diabetes
  • Overweight
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels
  • Personal history of heart or blood vessel disease, elevated blood glucose levels, polycystic ovary syndrome or gestational diabetes
  • Ethnicity, including African-American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native
  • Dark velvety patches on your skin (acanthosis nigricans)

Next Steps

If you have any of the above risk factors, ask your doctor about a diabetes screening.


This information is brought to you by:

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Source: Park Nicollet Health Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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