More than one in 10 Americans have diabetes, a chronic condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough of (or doesn’t effectively use) an essential hormone called insulin. This amounts to over 37 million people in the United States with the potentially disabling or even life-threatening condition — and one in five of them don’t even know they have it.
Why is insulin important?
Insulin plays a critical role in helping the body turn food into energy and helping it regulate the levels of sugar in the blood. And when the body doesn’t have enough insulin or doesn’t use it properly, a wide range of health problems can arise — including an increased risk for heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, and a long list of other problems including issues with vision, hearing, the feet, oral health and mental health.
The most common type of diabetes, type 2 diabetes, accounts for 90% to 95% of diabetes cases in the United States. Mainly affecting adults, this type of diabetes can be prevented or delayed by instituting healthy lifestyle changes such as losing weight, maintaining a nutritious, health-focused diet and getting enough exercise. Because type 2 diabetes often shows no symptoms before setting in, it’s important to undergo regular blood sugar testing, especially if you have certain risk factors. These can include a family history of the condition, being overweight, not getting regular exercise and being age 45 or older.
Other types of diabetes include:
- Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system stops the body from producing insulin. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and there is no known way to prevent the condition.
- Gestational diabetes, which develops in some patients during pregnancy, usually goes away after the patient gives birth — but it can heighten the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Prediabetes is often seen in patients before type 2 diabetes develops and is characterized by higher-than-normal blood sugar levels. The condition can be prevented or reversed by implementing some of the same above-mentioned lifestyle changes that can help patients delay or prevent diabetes.
Living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Proper diabetes management involves knowing what makes your blood sugar rise and fall, then taking the steps needed to keep it in the right range. Some of the leading lifestyle factors that play a big role in blood-sugar management include:
- maintaining a healthy diet
- getting regular exercise
- when needed and prescribed, ensuring proper medication management with the help of a professional caregiver — which often includes taking oral medications like metformin, which lowers the blood sugar by controlling the release of stored sugars, or taking insulin, a hormone that helps the body lower the levels of sugar in the blood, to keep blood-sugar levels in check
- limiting alcohol intake
- controlling stress
Get TRUE Care — and help achieving a healthier lifestyle — at Wilmington Health
Specializing in personalized nutrition counseling and diabetes management for adult patients, the members of Wilmington Health’s Nutrition and Diabetes Management team take a personal interest in patients’ lifestyles, medical issues and health-related goals. Through patient empowerment, understanding and compassionate care, they can help you achieve a healthier lifestyle and improved medical outcomes.
To learn more about how the providers at Wilmington Health can help you prevent diabetes or better manage the condition, visit our website today.