Med group advises on diabetes awareness and prevention

  • Published
  • By Maj. Sheri Webb
  • 23rd Medical Group
The American Diabetes Association reports there are 23.6 million children and adults in the United States with diabetes -- and nearly a quarter of them do not know it. The ADA goes on to say that before people develop type II diabetes, they almost always have "pre-diabetes" -- blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but are not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

The problem is some of the long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during this pre-diabetes time.

Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action or both. Diabetes can lead to serious complications and premature death, but people with diabetes can take steps to control the disease and lower the risk of complications.

In adults, type II diabetes accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. It usually begins as insulin resistance, a disorder in which the cells do not use insulin properly. As the need for insulin rises, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce it. In type II diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin.

Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy. When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, the cells get starved for energy and high blood glucose levels cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart. 

Type II diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and is associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose metabolism, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. Diabetes is associated with an increased risk for a number of serious, sometimes life-threatening complications and certain populations experience an even greater threat. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, some Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk. Type II diabetes in children and adolescents, once rare, is now being diagnosed more frequently in the United States.

Studies have shown that good diabetes control helps reduce risk; however, many people are not even aware that they have diabetes until they begin to develop its complications. This may be because many of the symptoms come on slowly or are not seen as harmful. Symptoms include: frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability, and blurry vision.

It is very important that if one or more of these symptoms exist to schedule an appointment with a medical provider right away.

Recently, the ADA announced in a Diabetes Prevention Program study that people with pre-diabetes can prevent the development of type II diabetes by making changes in diet and increasing the level of physical activity. This research confirmed that type II diabetes can be delayed or prevented from developing by taking action to manage blood glucose during pre-diabetes. This study also found that although some medications may help in delaying the development of diabetes, it was diet and exercise that really produced the best results. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, coupled with a 5-10 percent reduction in body weight, produced a 58 percent reduction in diabetes in the population being studied.

The ADA continues to develop research and educational materials that will help people understand their risks for pre-diabetes and what they can do to halt the progression of diabetes, even "turning back the clock."

For more information please check out the ADA website at, where an online diabetes risk test can be taken. The Health and Wellness Center also offers a monthly diabetes class. Please call 257-4292 to register or to receive more information.