Three Things You May Not Know About Diabetes

As one of the most common health conditions in America, diabetes doesn't always get the serious attention it deserves.

With rising healthcare costs and high rates of obesity, knowledge about diabetes is indeed power - for patients, caretakers, physicians and the average health-conscious person.

Whether you have diabetes yourself or you know someone with the disease, there are likely things you don't know that may change your perspective.

1. It's not a one-size-fits-all condition.

Type 2 diabetes may get the most "press," but there are other types of diabetes that come with completely different challenges, symptoms and risk factors.

While type 2 diabetes is preventable and related to lifestyle factors (diet, exercise, BMI) in most cases, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that is most often not related to weight and that many people are born with.

Gestational diabetes, too, is a separate condition - one that affects pregnant women and their unborn babies - and it can have long-term consequences for both mother and child.

Pre-diabetes is also a distinct condition, which can be reversed or can turn into full-blown diabetes.

Understanding the differences between these conditions is important for both people with diabetes and the people in their lives, as they each require a unique approach for care.

2. Ethnicity and race are factors.

It's difficult to discuss diabetes without acknowledging the fact that certain racial and ethnic populations are more affected than others.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 15.9 percent of American Indians/Alaskan Natives have diabetes, followed by 13.2 percent of non-Hispanic blacks, 12.8 percent of Hispanics, 9.0 percent of Asian Americans and 7.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Since type 2 diabetes is intricately connected to factors like wealth, poverty and access to medical care, understanding how certain ethnic or racial populations are affected is key.

3. It's a leading cause of death.

In 2010, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Moreover, the American Diabetes Association reports that diabetes may be underreported as a cause of death, since the condition can cause all sorts of fatal complications like heart attacks, stroke or kidney failure.

Unfortunately, many of these deaths may be preventable, suggesting that more education and awareness is needed about diabetes on both a local and global level.

Source: American Diabetes Association

Photo credit: "Simply Raw group" by Raw for Thirty, LLC - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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