Millions of Americans are living with type 2, or adult onset, diabetes—and millions more are at risk and don't even know it. That’s why education, awareness and testing are integral parts of American Diabetes Month every November. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 84 million American adults have prediabetes, and 90 percent of them are unaware of the health risks they face. That’s why it’s key to know what some of the major risk factors are:
Overweight or obese
If your body mass index, or BMI, is 25 to 29.9, you are considered overweight. Above 30? Then you are considered obese. Unsure of where you fall? The ADA’s calculator can help you quickly pin down that number.
Age, family, and race are factors
If you’re 45 or older or have a family history of diabetes (types 1 or 2), then you are at higher risk. Also, if you’re African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander, your risk also is escalated.
Other health issues play a role
If you have high blood pressure, a low level of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, or a high level of triglycerides, that can boost your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. The same goes if you’re not physically active, have a history of heart disease or stroke, or even suffer from depression.
Want a clearer picture? The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has created a type 2 diabetes risk test that’s quick and easy.
It’s not all bad news, however—actually quite the opposite! Delaying and (even better) preventing type 2 diabetes is very possible. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, and being active are all attainable lifestyle choices that can greatly reduce risk. Here are a few ways to put those goals into action:
Dropping some pounds not only wards off type 2 diabetes, it also helps lower unhealthy cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, high blood sugar, and even stroke. Dropping as few as 10 to 15 pounds can make a big difference.
There is an endless array of damage caused by smoking. While much of the focus is on the lungs, smoking also reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches your organs, and that can cause a cascading effect of other issues. Diabetes, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol are just a few.
Watch that blood pressure
Nearly one in three American adults has high blood pressure, which can cause type 2 diabetes along with heart attack, stroke, and other serious issues. When’s the last time you had your blood pressure checked? If you can’t recall, see your doctor for a physical and, if necessary, begin a medication regimen to help lower that blood pressure.
Control your blood sugar
High blood sugar isn’t just a danger for diabetes. It can cause heart disease, kidney damage, and more. Again, have yours tested during an annual physical and see if there are steps to be taken. (Losing weight is a great way, along with a healthy diet, to keep this number down.)
Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition and, happily, one that can be treated and reversed. All it takes is awareness, and a willingness to follow doctor’s orders around mediation, diet and exercise. If you’re worried about developing the condition, see your physician, get some blood work done and discuss next steps to not only avoid type 2 diabetes, but live a healthier life overall.
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