Knowledge is Power: You CAN Lower Your Risk of Diabetes

Are you at risk? Not knowing may actually put you at risk.

Knowing the risk factors, and where your body is relative to these factors, gives you the opportunity to make the changes necessary to avoid diabetes and many other diseases.

Risk Factors

Weight
Are you overweight? Do you know your BMI? Obesity is one of the strongest comorbidities of diabetes.

Fat is one factor in the metabolic process that produces and utilizes insulin. Excess fat, particularly visceral adipose fat (as fat in the mid-section is called) disrupts this process. This excess fat can attach to the liver (fatty liver) and cause the liver to fail to effectively process glucose out of the blood. Cells are flooded with glucose, and the insulin receptors begin to fail. This causes the cells to become resistant to insulin, which is the ‘key’ necessary for glucose to enter cells and produce energy.

Studies have shown that weight loss, even as little as 5% to 10% of body weight, can substantially lessen the risk of developing diabetes. More valuable, perhaps, is to increase exercise and decrease consumption of fat, so as to lessen abdominal fat.

Elevated Blood Glucose Levels
When cells in the body become resistant to insulin, glucose cannot enter those cells, and it builds up in the bloodstream. Persistent excess glucose, above certain levels, can result in a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

Blood glucose levels are tested one or more times each day by active diabetics. For those who are either diabetic or pre-diabetic, periodic testing includes either the A1c test, or a fasting blood glucose test. These numbers are very important, as they determine whether the patient has diabetes, and what level of control they have over their glucose levels.

Those who are diagnosed as pre-diabetic ( blood sugar levels between 100 mg/dl and 125mg/dl, A1c between 5.7% and 6.4%) may still be able to avoid diabetes by losing weight, eating a healthy diet and exercising.

Physical Inactivity
Regular physical activity may result in weight loss, lessening of abdominal fat deposits and overall improvements in circulation. All of these lead to better health and diabetes avoidance.

Smoking
Smoking causes a continuous inflammation of tissue and organs throughout the body. This inflammation is the result of the immune system working overtime. This constant activity wears the immune system down, making it more susceptible to the onset of disease, including diabetes

Poisons in cigarette smoke can also affect blood sugar levels, and directly lead to diabetes.

Age, Race, Gender
Increased age increases the risk of developing diabetes.

Non-Caucasian American populations – African Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders – are all at greater risk of developing diabetes.

Diabetes is generally experienced equally between women and men.

Gestational Diabetes
Women with a history of gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at higher risk of developing diabetes later in life.

Genetic Predisposition
Where a family history of diabetes exists, the risk of developing diabetes is greater. The overall risk of getting a diagnosis of diabetes is most often a combination of family history and lifestyle, but even those who are not obese are diagnosed with diabetes because of genetic predisposition.

Risk is generally elevated when a parent or a sibling has also been diagnosed with diabetes.

Sources: WebMD , American Diabetes Association (ADA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Image courtesy: CDC

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