Diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)in the United States, is now a disease that affects 29 million people or 9.3% of the American population, and 8.1 million of them do not even know they have the disease.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is the name given to a group of conditions that leave the body unable to maintain normal levels of blood sugar. The main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.  Both women and men can develop diabetes at any age.

How common is it?

Type 1 diabetes is far less common than type 2 and affects 10-15% of all people with diabetes. Most people with type 1 diabetes are diagnosed before the age of 40 and most often in childhood between 8 and 12 years.

How do you get it?

In type 1 diabetes, your body no longer makes insulin or enough insulin because the body’s immune system has attacked and destroyed the cells that make insulin.

Type 2 diabetes can affect people at any age, even children. However, type 2 diabetes develops most often in middle-aged and older people. People who are overweight and inactive are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance where over time the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin when blood sugar levels increase, such as after meals. If your pancreas can no longer make enough insulin, you will need to treat your type 2 diabetes.

How do you know if you have it?

The signs and symptoms of diabetes are being very thirsty, urinating often, feeling very hungry, feeling very tired, losing weight without trying, sores that heal slowly, dry &itchy skin, feelings of pins and needles in your feet and blurry eyesight.

Some people with diabetes don’t have any of these signs or symptoms. The only way to know if you have diabetes is to have your doctor do a blood test for you.

What are the complications?

Over time, diabetes can lead to serious problems with your blood vessels, heart, nerves, kidneys, mouth, eyes, and feet. The most serious problem caused by diabetes is heart disease. When you have diabetes, you are more than twice as likely as people without diabetes to have heart disease or a stroke. Your doctor must keep your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in your target range.

What do you do next?

Diabetes is a complex illness and requires a great commitment to avoid any complications. Treatment options include lifestyle changes and diet as well as either medication in the form of tablets or insulin, depending on the type of diabetes and degree of disease progress.

So what is the take-home message?

If you are overweight, have a family history of diabetes or unaware of your risk, book an appointment with your GP to avoid developing any complications resulting from late diagnosis.

Screening tests are essential to maintaining a long and healthy life! 

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