Get Checked for Diabetes: You May Have It and Not Know
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Get Checked for Diabetes: You May Have It and Not Know  

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By Debi Hartz, Optima Health

Norfolk (April 11, 2010) - You could be walking around with diabetes and not even know it. One-third of all people with Type 2 diabetes, the most common type, have not been diagnosed.

Almost 23.6 million American adults and children have diabetes. And, because of the increase of obesity, the number is rising.

What is diabetes?

It’s a chronic illness in which the body can’t use the energy from food. With the help of insulin, your body changes most foods into sugar for energy. In diabetes, either the body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use the insulin. This causes sugar to build up in the blood.

Because of these high levels of sugar, you are at risk for heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney disease and nerve damage. There is no cure for diabetes, but you can manage it.

Warning signs for diabetes include:
A need to urinate often
Extreme thirst or hunger
Sudden weight loss
Blurred vision
Dry, itchy skin
Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
Slow healing cuts or sores.

At least 57 million Americans have a condition called pre-diabetes, which includes 2 million overweight teens whose blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. If you have prediabetes, you are at a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes within 10 years. It also increases your risk for heart attack or stroke.

Many factors increase your risk for diabetes, including: being 45 or older, being overweight, a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, a lack of exercise, cholesterol problems, having diabetes while pregnant (called gestational diabetes), giving birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more, and having a family background that is African American, Hispanic/ Latino, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Islander.

What can you do to help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes? If you have pre-diabetes, eat foods that are lower in fat and calories, lose weight if you are overweight, and increase physical activity every day. Changing your habits also lowers the risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer, arthritis and many other health problems. You will feel better, and have more energy to do the things you enjoy.

If you think you’re at risk for diabetes, call your physician.

For information on diabetes, go to the American Diabetes Association Web site.

Debi Hartz is a certified diabetes educator and team coordinator in Health Care Services at Optima Health. This article also appeared in The Virginian-Pilot on April 11, 2010. ,

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