American Diabetes Month – Know your risk

Blog contributed by 9Health intern Chase Bouck

November is American Diabetes Month, and there is no better time to get informed and know your risk.

As it stands today, 34.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, which equates to 10.5% of the entire population, according to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation.

Further, an additional 88 million U.S. adults (that’s 1 out of every 3) have prediabetes and without intervention, many people with prediabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years, which puts them at risk of serious health problems. 

Unfortunately, most people that have prediabetes and even type 2 diabetes do not have symptoms at first which puts them at risk of having complications from the disease.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious condition that causes higher than normal blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when your body cannot make or effectively use its own insulin, a hormone made by special cells in the pancreas. Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the sugar (glucose) from the food you eat to enter. Then, your body uses that glucose for energy.

It is important to note that there three main types of diabetes – type1, type 2 and gestational.

  • Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age but occurs most frequently in children and adolescents. When you have type 1 diabetes, your body produces very little or no insulin, which means that you need daily insulin injections to maintain blood glucose levels under control.
  • Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults and accounts for around 90% of all diabetes cases. When you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make good use of the insulin that it produces. The cornerstone of type 2 diabetes treatment is a healthy lifestyle, including increased physical activity and a healthy diet. However, over time most people with type 2 diabetes will require oral drugs and/or insulin to keep their blood glucose levels under control. 
  • Gestational diabetes (GDM) is a type of diabetes that consists of high blood glucose during pregnancy and is associated with complications to both mother and child. GDM usually disappears after pregnancy but women affected and their children are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

While many may not experience symptoms, especially if you just have prediabetes, there are some to be aware of.

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Presence of ketones in the urine (ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there’s not enough available insulin)
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections

Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors

You can get type 2 diabetes at any age, but you are at a higher risk if you are older, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, are not physically active, or are a woman who has had gestational diabetes. 

While diabetes occurs in people of all ages and races, some groups have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than others. Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/ Pacific Islanders, as well as the older population. 

To check your risk for type 2 diabetes, click or tap here to complete the free online assessment from 9Health.

You can also get a Hemoglobin A1C screening through 9Health. Hemoglobin A1C is an indicator of your risk for type 2 diabetes, and for people living with type 2 diabetes, it indicates how well your treatment plan is working. 9Health offers a screening you can do at Quest Diagnostics Patient Service Centers.

If you are currently living with diabetes, then November is the time for you to be heard. The American Diabetes Association acknowledges the struggles that millions go through on a daily basis while battling this disease, and they have created a platform for these brave individuals to share their stories and awaken the world.