The number of people suffering from diabetes is increasing at a rapid speed, with Type 2 diabetes being the most common form. But you don’t have to sit back and wait to see if you’ll be among the rising statistics. You can do a lot to reduce your risk of developing the disease.
The World Health Organization estimates that 90 percent of diabetics around the world have Type 2 diabetes.
In the United States, diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in 2015. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 30.3 million American adults, or 9.4 percent of the population, had diabetes in 2015. Of those, 23.1 million were diagnosed and 7.2 million were undiagnosed.
In addition, 84.1 million Americans age 18 and older had prediabetes in 2015, according to the ADA. Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with prediabetes are at increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. This is also called hyperglycemia.
Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin, which helps cells convert glucose from the food you eat into energy. In Type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin, but the cells are not able to use it properly. This is known as insulin resistance.
In the beginning, the pancreas works harder to produce more insulin to ensure glucose enters the cells. But with time, this can damage cells in your pancreas. Eventually, your pancreas may not be able to produce any insulin.
In both cases, whether your body is not producing enough insulin or your body doesn’t use it efficiently, glucose builds up in your bloodstream. This leads to a high blood sugar level and Type 2 diabetes.
To date, experts are not sure what exactly triggers this series of events. However, a combination of factors can cause Type 2 diabetes, including genes, extra body weight, metabolic syndrome, too much glucose from your liver, bad communication between cells and broken beta cells.
Signs and Symptoms
Type 2 diabetes causes a variety of symptoms that develop slowly. The symptoms are usually mild in the beginning, so most people ignore them. But paying attention to early symptoms is crucial to curbing or preventing this condition.
Some of the early symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are:
- Increased hunger.
- Lack of energy and constant fatigue.
- Sudden weight loss/gain.
- Excessive thirst.
- Frequent urination.
- Dry mouth.
- Itchy skin.
- Blurry vision.
As the disease progresses and your blood sugar level remains high for a long time, you may experience symptoms including:
- Recurring yeast infections.
- Slow-healing cuts or sores.
- Dark patches on your skin.
- Foot pain.
- Feelings of numbness in your extremities (neuropathy).
Undiagnosed or poorly managed Type 2 diabetes can lead to several health complications, some of which can even be life-threatening.
Some potential complications are heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage (neuropathy), kidney damage (nephropathy), eye damage, foot damage, hearing impairment, poor skin health and Alzheimer’s disease, to name a few.
As Type 2 diabetes is becoming more common, it’s important to know the risk factors. There are certain risk factors that you cannot control. However, many lifestyle factors can be reduced or eliminated entirely with time and effort, lowering your risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Some of the risk factors you can’t control are:
- Age: 45 or older.
- Gender: Men are at slightly higher risk than women.
- Family: A parent, sister or brother has diabetes.
- Ethnicity: People belonging to certain ethnic groups like African-American, Alaskan Native, Native American, Asian-American, Hispanic or Latino, or Pacific Islander-American are at higher risk.
Some of the risk factors related to your health and medical history are:
- Heart and blood vessel disease.
- High blood pressure.
- Low level of high-density lipoproteins (HDL or the “good” cholesterol).
- High level of triglycerides.
- Being overweight.
- Delivering a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds.
- Having gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- Acanthosis nigricans.