The Disease Affecting 30 Million Americans: Diabetes

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by Jeannie Versagli, RDN, CN 

November is diabetes awareness month, and the purpose of this article is to bring awareness to the signs, symptoms, and side effects of Diabetes.  Individuals are often not aware that the disease is present, so knowing the signs and symptoms goes a long way in early diagnosis and treatment.

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The following factors greatly influence one’s chances of developing pre-diabetes and Diabetes:

  • Family history of diabetes or inherited tendency.
  • Pre-diabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. If left untreated, pre-diabetes often progresses to diabetes.
  • If your body stores fat primarily in your abdomen, your risk of diabetes is greater than if your body stores fat elsewhere, such as your hips and thighs.
  • The less active you are, the greater your risk of developing diabetes. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy, and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
  • Being overweight by 20% or more of your desirable body weight.
  • Physical stress, such as surgery or an illness
  • Use of certain medication, such as steroids and blood pressure medications
  • Autoimmune disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels
  • Risk increases with age
  • Alcohol use (risk increases with years of heavy alcohol use)
  • Smoking
  • History of gestational diabetes or delivery of a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
  • Race and ethnicity can also play a role. 15.1 % of people with American Indian and Alaskan heritage, 12.7 % of African Americans, 12.1% of Hispanics, 8% of Asian Americans, 7.4% non-Hispanic Caucasians have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the United States.

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Statistics

In 2015, there were an estimated 30.3 million or 9.4% of Americans with a diagnosis of Diabetes, and nearly 1 in 4 of the adults with diabetes were not aware they had the disease. There were 1.5 million new cases of Diabetes diagnosed in 2015 alone.

What’s more alarming is that diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.  And worse still, it is costing the United States billions of dollars in medical support.  In March of 2018, $327 billion dollars was spent on diabetic medical care. Many times, type 2 diabetes can be controlled through proper diet and nutrition, significantly reducing the overall cost for medical treatment.

Educating yourself in recognizing the signs and or symptoms of this disease are critical in receiving an early diagnosis, minimizing the negative consequence of the disease.

Signs & Symptoms of Diabetes

Familiarize yourself with the following signs and or symptoms that indicate pre-diabetes or diabetes is present:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Feeling unusually week or tired
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands of feet
  • Slow-healing sores or cuts
  • Dry and itchy skin.
  • Frequent yeast infections
  • Areas of darkened skin. Some people with type 2 Diabetes have patches of dark, velvety skin in the folds and creases of their bodies — usually in the armpits and neck. This condition, called acanthosis nigricans, may be a sign of insulin resistance.
  • After age 65 it is recommended that you be screened for Diabetes by obtaining an A1C level for a baseline.

If you identify with any of these signs and or symptoms, contact your doctor. He or she can order blood work consisting of an A1C, fasting blood glucose level, and/or OGTT 2-hour blood glucose level to evaluate if diabetes is present.

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Side Effects of Diabetes

Serious side effects of not managing diabetes can produce the following medical conditions:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • High Blood pressure
  • High Triglyceride levels
  • Low HDL levels
  • Kidney failure
  • Nerve damage
  • Vision problems
  • Dental problems

Recommendations

A weight loss of just 5% of your total body weight will improve the body’s ability to utilize glucose.  Focusing on healthy eating and exercise is also key to weight management and improving blood sugar control. A poor-quality diet may provide weight loss but not improve glucose management.  Eliminating refined grains, added sugars, processed meats, trans fats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and high sodium foods is the formula for establishing a healthy meal plan.  It is generally recognized that a diet containing more legumes, nuts/seeds, whole grains, vegetables/fruits, fish, vegetable oils along with dairy products, produces positive outcomes for controlling and/or improving Diabetes.

It is recommended that you schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian. He or she can work with you to develop a personal nutritional program to improve your blood glucose levels.  Adding simple forms of exercise, like walking 30 minutes a day, are recommended as well to improve blood glucose levels. Your doctor may prescribe oral medication or insulin to help with blood glucose levels initially, but once nutrition and exercise are in place, improvements with blood glucose levels are typically seen, and your doctor may begin to be taper down your medication.

Take charge of your health today by making positive changes with your lifestyle to promote a healthier you.

Additional Resources

The American Diabetes Association

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


Jeannie Versagli holds a license in Nutrition for the State of Delaware and is a Registered Dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a national professional organization. Her career in the Nutrition and Culinary fields spans over 30 years. As a part of the HAC team, Jeannie oversees our nutrition programs and services, facilitates some of the services personally, and acts as a resource throughout the club. To learn more about private nutrition counseling with Jeannie, please click here


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