The Disease Many Americans Don’t Know They Have

November is the month of diabetes awareness as an everyday reality, however, diabetes is a health condition that Americans need to be aware of daily. More than 114 million Americans have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, which equates to over 45% of adults in the United States. Of those Americans, an alarming number are unaware that they have the disease or are at high risk. In fact, 9 out of 10 people with prediabetes do not know they have the condition. Because undiagnosed diabetes can lead to significant health issues, it’s important to know the risk factors and make necessary lifestyle changes to prevent diabetes.

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Why should I worry about diabetes?

Diabetes that goes untreated can lead to heart disease, stroke, and nerve damage in the feet, among other complications. Many Americans struggle with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and, as a result, develop multiple health conditions such as high blood pressure, excess fat around the belly area, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. The presence of multiple of these health conditions is called metabolic syndrome and increases risk of diabetes. Though these conditions alone do not mean someone will develop diabetes, they do increase risk of diabetes, as well as of other serious health conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

Does weight loss prevent diabetes?

One of the biggest risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes is obesity. Being obese triggers insulin resistance, meaning the body doesn’t use insulin effectively. When the body becomes insulin-resistant, glucose can build up in the blood, leading to prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that reducing total bodyweight by even 5-10% can prevent the development of diabetes. In fact, weight loss and increased activity can reduce the risk of diabetes by 58%. If someone already has diabetes, this weight loss can reduce the need for dependence on diabetes medications.

Risk runs in the family

According to the CDC, having an immediate family number with diabetes increases risk for both prediabetes and diabetes. Many online resources list what specific questions can help determine a person’s family history risk. Some of the most notable considerations are if a parent or sibling has diabetes; if a parent or sibling has been told they need to lose weight to prevent diabetes; or if a person’s mother had gestational diabetes while pregnant. While certain genetic factors are out of a person’s control, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious diet, and incorporating regular exercise into a person’s routine can effectively lower his or her risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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