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Gaining knowledge of risk factors

November 30, 2011

Photo by Victoria Stanish – People with diabetes often have to test their blood sugar, shown here, and take pills or injections, but a knowledge of risk factors, prevention activities and successful management of diabetes can help people lead long, healthy lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has risen dramatically across the nation, increasing from 1.5 million in 1958 to 18.8 million in 2010. From 1980 to 2009, the percentage of people diagnosed with diabetes in the United States increased in all age groups. Many factors have been attributed to this rise, including an increasingly sedentary lifestyle among Americans.
About 25.8 million Americans have diabetes, and of these, 7 million are undiagnosed. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and people are encouraged to learn about healthier lifestyles and seek education about the disease.
"Many people are unaware that they have diabetes," said Marie Michelini, a dietitian and diabetes educator at Elk Regional Health Center. "Diabetes can be an extremely serious condition if it is not diagnosed early or not managed properly. That's why raising awareness is so important."
Diabetes is a disease in which the body's pancreas does not produce enough insulin or does not properly use insulin, which is a hormone necessary to the production of energy our bodies need. When we digest our food, it is converted into fats, protein or carbohydrates. Glucose is a sugar produced from carbohydrates we eat that is used by cells for energy. Insulin helps move the glucose from the bloodstream into cells. Type 1 diabetes, known for many years as "juvenile-onset" diabetes because it is mainly diagnosed in children, occurs when the pancreas cannot produce sufficient quantities of insulin for this process. Type 2 diabetes, diagnosed mostly in adults, occurs when there is a defect with the insulin produced and it is not able to move glucose into cells. In both types of diabetes, the glucose is left stranded in the bloodstream, producing high levels of blood sugars that can negatively affect various organs and functions of the body. In both types of diabetes, the glucose must be controlled. Additionally, both types of diabetes can occur in a person of any age, and Type 2 diabetes is being increasingly diagnosed in children and adolescents.
Not properly controlling diabetes can lead to serious health complications, including stroke, amputation due to its affect on the circulatory system, heart problems, and possible death. However, many people who have managed to control their diabetes or work to prevent conditions that lead to the disease live long and healthy lives.
Although researchers have not pinpointed an exact cause of diabetes, genetics and lifestyle factors have been attributed to its development. The CDC estimates that about 79 million adults age 20 and older have pre-diabetes, a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to warrant a diagnosis of diabetes. Studies have indicated that a healthy diet, losing excess weight and increasing physical activity can help people prevent or delay the progression to diabetes.

Pick up a copy of the Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.

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