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Feature Articles: Health


person using glucose testerImportant information about type 2 diabetes

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension


The American Diabetes Association estimates that 23.6 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, but only 17.9 million people have actually been diagnosed. This means an estimated 5.7 million people have diabetes and don’t know it. It is estimated that 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.


Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to produce enough insulin or unable to use insulin in the right way. When we eat, our bodies break down foods containing carbohydrates into glucose. Insulin is needed for glucose to enter our bodies’ cells so that it can be used for energy. If insulin is unable to do its job, glucose (or blood sugar) stays in the blood, making blood sugar levels high.


You could have diabetes and not know it — some people do not have any symptoms or do not notice the symptoms. Symptoms to be aware of include frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, sores that do not heal, or extreme thirst, hunger or fatigue.


Don’t be fooled — the initial weight loss that sometimes happens with diabetes is not healthy and you should seek treatment. Without treatment, diabetes can do damage to the body long before you feel symptoms. High blood sugar levels over long periods of time can lead to problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, gums and teeth. According to the National Institutes of Health, a person with diabetes is twice as likely to have a stroke or heart disease as someone without diabetes.


Factors that put you at higher risk of getting diabetes include having a close family member with diabetes, being overweight or not being physically active. Some ethnic groups, like African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders or Native Americans, have higher incidence of diabetes. Women who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes or delivered a baby larger than 9 pounds are at risk for developing diabetes. Another risk factor is being over the age of 45. As we age, the pancreas does not make insulin as well.


The good news is that if you are at risk for developing diabetes, there are things you can do to delay or prevent onset of the disease. In a federally funded research project called the Diabetes Prevention Program, persons who made lifestyle changes to eat healthy and exercise reduced their chances of getting type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. In the study, participants walked for 30 minutes, five times per week and decreased fat and calories to lose 5 to 7 percent of their body weight. (For a 175 pound person who is overweight, that would translate to a 9 to 12 pound weight loss.)


Diabetes is a serious disease. At your next doctor visit, discuss your risk for diabetes with your physician. It is important to define your risk factors and take all necessary precautions to delay or prevent it. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to manage the disease so that you can live a full and productive life.


Updated May 2010. Updates to this article were made by Julie Birsinger, Nursing Student Intern, and Molly Vetter-Smith MPH, MEd, RD, State Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension.


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Last update: Monday, November 08, 2010