By Richard L. Peatman, Pharm.D., Meadow Vista Pharmacy
Did you know that one in four people have diabetes and don't even know it? Could you be one of them? About 26 million Americans have diabetes. And, another 79 million adults in the U.S. have a condition that could turn into diabetes (prediabetes). Diabetes happens when your body can't use glucose (a type of sugar) the right way. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose enter cells, where they use this sugar as a source of energy. With diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or it can't respond well to insulin. Then you can have symptoms of too much glucose, such as increased urination, extreme thirst, and weight loss for no known reason.
Certain people are more likely than others to get diabetes and genetics plays an important role in who gets the disease. Native Americans and Alaska Natives are more than twice as likely to develop diabetes as are Caucasian Americans. Individuals of Asian descent are also at increased risk. Other risk factors include diet, obesity (especially weight around the middle) and sedentary lifestyle.
Diabetes is not something to ignore. If left uncontrolled, it can lead to a whole host of complications, including high blood pressure, kidney failure, eye problems, and nerve damage. It doubles your risk of heart disease. That's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. A deadly duo can be in store when diabetes is combined with other health problems. For reasons not well understood, women with both breast cancer and diabetes have a 50 percent increased risk of dying. Also, diabetics with depression have a greater chance of death. It could be that people with depression may find it harder to take care of themselves. So you can see why it's so important to address both conditions.
How can you help prevent this serious disease? The steps are simple, but not always easy to do. Healthy diet and weight control are critical. So, too, is physical activity. A recent Australian study showed that the more you walk, the lower your risk of diabetes. They tracked nearly 600 middle-aged adults for five years, giving them a pedometer to use. Here's what they found: People who walked 10,000 steps daily at least 5 days a week were three times more protected against diabetes than those who walked just 3,000 steps a day even when other factors such as diet, smoking, and alcohol were taken into account.
For more information about this growing health problem, go to the American Diabetes Association online at http://www.diabetes.org/. And don't forget to get regular checkups with your healthcare provider.