She explores the latest developments and strategies for treatment and prevention in this week's "Dealing With Diabetes" series.
The problem is that diabetes is a widespread problem. Type 1 (or juvenile diabetes) is an immune system disorder that usually develops in childhood, where the body loses the ability to produce insulin altogether.
Type 2 (or adult onset diabetes) is a chronic disease where the body loses it's ability to process insulin. The majority of cases in this country are type 2 diabetes, and most experts agree that we're seeing more and more type 2 diabetes in both the young and the old as a result of the obesity epidemic in the U.S.
More than 18 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. More than 5 million of those are unaware they even have it. An estimated 41 million more are at high risk of developing the disease, with a condition known as pre-diabetes.
Pre-diabetes is characterized by risk factors like high blood sugar and obesity that often develop into full-blown diabetes. The onset of full-blown diabetes can be delayed if people get checked and treated for these early warning signs.
Importance of Early Tackling
Taking care of pre-diabetes before it progresses into full-blown diabetes is important because diabetes is a disease that can sneak up gradually without warning. People can sometimes have elevated blood sugars for years before they get diagnosed. The push now is to recognize these people and get them started with lifestyle changes and possibly medication early on, because diabetes is a serious disease that can result in some very nasty complications.
Diabetics are at much higher risk for heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and limb amputation. That's why it's so important for proper control of blood sugar and insulin to avoid these complications.
The best way to prevent diabetes is through good diet and regular exercise. The earlier in life one develops good habits, the better. Just 30 minutes of walking per day and a 50 to 10 percent weight loss can delay the onset of diabetes by as much as 60 percent.
The idea is to make lifestyle changes now so you don't get in trouble farther down the road.
At age 45, you should be screened to see if you have any pre-diabetic warning signs - and earlier if there are other risk factors.
Diabetic risk groups are those with obesity, inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a family history of diabetes or high-risk ethnic groups including African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics.
Another risk factor is a history of gestational diabetes, which is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.
For some people with pre-diabetes, intervening early can actually turn back the clock and return elevated blood glucose levels to the normal range.