Every 17 seconds someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with diabetes.
In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, had diabetes. Of those, 8.1 million were undiagnosed.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which the body is unable to produce any or enough insulin, which causes elevated levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually takes place early in life. In this case, cells in the pancreas cannot produce insulin to control glucose in the blood. 95% of diabetics have Type 2 diabetes, which generally develops later in life. In Type 2 diabetes, the body produces insulin but it may not be enough, or the body may not recognize it and use it properly.
Type 2 diabetes can be easy to overlook, especially in its early stages when physical signs have not yet developed. That’s because complications of diabetes advance slowly. When symptoms do present themselves, many people are unaware they have a very serious disease – one that can ultimately become debilitating and even life-threatening over time.
Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease
Diabetes affects many major organs, including kidneys, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and your heart. In fact, people with Type 2 diabetes are more than twice as likely to be affected by heart disease and stroke as those without it. What’s more, diabetics tend to develop heart and vascular problems at an early age, as diabetes speeds up the process of plaque build-up in the arteries. Heart and vascular disease contribute to more than 65% of deaths in people with diabetes, and diabetics are two to four times more likely to have a stroke. Additional cardiovascular problems linked to diabetes include coronary artery disease (angina), heart attack, narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and high blood pressure, the latter of which affects 73% of diabetics.
Taking Control of Diabetes
A startling number of individuals go through life with undiagnosed diabetes, so it’s important to focus on risk factors associated with the disease. Age, obesity, family history, lack of exercise, and race and ethnicity all play an important role in determining your risk level. And while factors such as age, race, and family history cannot be changed, lifestyle factors like inactivity and obesity can help tackle this national epidemic when addressed early. Type 2 diabetes can be managed by eating right, exercising regularly, losing weight, controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol through medication, and taking insulin as prescribed.
Fighting Diabetes – Take the First Step
Are you at risk for diabetes? You could have diabetes and not know it. Visit your primary care physician today for an assessment and to learn more about what you can do to minimize risk.