Diabetes: Know the Facts

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the body has difficulty making or using insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose (sugar) in our blood.  When a person has diabetes, the body makes no insulin, too little insulin, or the insulin it makes does not work right. This results in high blood glucose.

a woman holding a glucose meter with a test strip touching her fingerWhat happens if my blood glucose is high? 
Over time, high blood glucose can lead to vision loss or even blindness.  It also can harm your kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves.  People with this metabolic disease have a higher chance of developing high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease.

Am I at risk?

Factors that may increase your risk are:

  • Family history– You are more likely to have the disease if one of your parents, grandparents or siblings had or has it.
  • Age– Risk increases as you age.
  • Race/ethnicity– If you are Hispanic, African American, American Indian, or Asian American, you are at an increased risk of developing the disease.
  • Gestational diabetes– If you had diabetes while you were pregnant or if you have birth to a baby weighing nine pounds or more, you have a greater risk of developing the disease later in life.
  • Obesity– Having excess body fat increases your chance.

What is a healthy weight?

Adults with a large amount of body fat, especially around their waist, are at risk for obesity-related diabetes.  An easy way to assess your weight is to measure your waist circumference.  Use a tape measure placed around your bare abdomen just about your hip bone.  Do not pull on the tape measure, but make sure it is snug around your waist.  A man with a waist greater than 40 inches or a non-pregnant woman with a waist greater than 35 inches is at high risk for developing diabetes and other obesity-related diseases.

How do I know if I have diabetes?

Close to 30 million Americans have diabetes, and about one-fourth of them do not know it and symptoms often vary.  They may experience all, some, or none of the following.

various words relating to diabetes

 

  • A need to urinate often (even at night)
  • Constant thirst or hunger
  • Weight loss that cannot be explained
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Skin infections
  • Slow healing of cuts
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • Blurry vision

If you have any of the above symptoms, visit your doctor and find out.  The sooner you know that you have diabetes, the sooner you can take charge of your condition.  This will help you feel better and lower your risk for health complications.

Can diabetes be cured?

In most cases, there is no cure, but there are ways it can be controlled.  Controlling diabetes means keeping your blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible.  Some people can achieve their blood -glucose goal with a proper diet and regular exercise.  Most people also need oral and/or injectable medications to reach their goals. Controlling your diabetes can reduce your risk for other health complications.

How can I control diabetes?

  • Keep your blood-glucose levels under control
  • Lose weight if you have excess body fat, especially abdominal fat
  • Be physically active every day
  • Take medications as prescribed
  • Have your eyes and blood pressure checked regularly
  • Do not smoke!
  • Have a health professional check your feet at least once a year; perform self-checks daily
  • Have your teeth cleaned and checked at least twice per year
  • Follow a healthy diet

Call your local Family Nutrition Program Assistant at your local UF/IFAS Extension Office to learn more about diabetes and a health lifestyle.

Jana Hart- Extension Agent- FCS/4-H

 

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