Did you know that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States? It is estimated that by the year 2020, 50 percent of Americans will either have diabetes or be pre-diabetic, but there is a way to prevent this. Johan Hernandez, MD, USC Family Medicine, offers information about diabetes risks and prevention.
First, what is diabetes?
There are two types: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the beta cells in the pancreas do not produce insulin, the hormone that processes food for use as energy. This type cannot be prevented, and anyone could be diagnosed with it regardless of age, weight or family history.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the body becomes insulin resistant. Over time, the pancreas becomes unable to keep up with the amount of sugar in the blood stream, and this causes blood sugar levels to rise. Dr. Hernandez said, “We typically see type 2 diabetes in older patients, but we are starting to see it more in younger patients because of the obesity epidemic.” Type 2 diabetes can be treated with lifestyle changes, oral medications and insulin.
When should you see a doctor about type 2 diabetes?
During the early stages of prediabetes, symptoms are often missed. Knowing the signs could be the difference between prediabetes and developing type 2 diabetes. The most common symptoms include:
What happens if your doctor says you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes?
- Frequent urination
- Excessive hunger and thirst
- Unintentional weight loss
- Blurry vision
You may have one of the risk factors. These include being overweight, having a family history of diabetes, being a member of a high-risk ethnic group (African-American, Hispanic or Asian American), having high blood pressure and being physically inactive. Dr. Hernandez said, “We cannot cure diabetes, but if you are pre-diabetic, we can prevent the development to type 2 diabetes.” He suggests the following lifestyle changes that can greatly lower the risk of type 2 diabetes:
What if your doctor diagnoses you with type 2 diabetes?
- Become physically active
- Don’t smoke
- Lose weight
- Develop a healthy diet
Your doctor will either do an A1C blood test, a finger stick blood test or a fasting blood test to determine whether or not you are diabetic. If you do get this diagnosis, know that type 2 diabetes can have complications – but they can be prevented. Dr. Hernandez said, “Developing a relationship with your primary care physician is very important. Let him or her help you!”
If you experience any of the symptoms above, talk to your doctor about a diabetes screening.
Find a doctor
The best time to schedule a new patient visit is while you’re well. We can help you choose from our network of more than 80 primary care physicians across the Midlands region.
Let us help