November Is Diabetes Awareness Month

BINGHAMTON, NY - Diabetes is the most rapidly growing chronic disease of our time. In New York State, there are an estimated 1,550,000 people with diabetes. Out of that number, 450,000 people are unaware that they have the disease.

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body does not produce insulin or cannot use the insulin that it produces as well as it should. Insulin is a hormone that helps sugar (glucose) from the blood get into cells where it is used to make energy. If glucose cannot get into the cells, it accumulates in the bloodstream. Over time, high blood glucose levels can cause serious health problems because blood vessels that supply blood to organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and eyes, are damaged by the excess glucose.

According to the New York State Department of Health, diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness, kidney disease, and amputation, and it also contributes to New York State's and the United States' number one killer, cardiovascular disease. People with diabetes are also more likely to die from influenza or pneumonia.

Diabetes is a serious and costly disease. According to the American Diabetes Association, the annual cost of diabetes nationally in 2007 was $174 billion. In the United States 1 in 10 health care dollars is attributed to diabetes and 1 in 5 health care dollars is spent on people with diabetes. The cost of diabetes continues to rise.

Type 2 diabetes, which is the most common type of diabetes, is preventable through proper nutrition and physical activity. Even those who have prediabetes, a condition that precedes type 2 diabetes in which the blood glucose level is higher than normal, and those who are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing a modest amount of weight and increasing physical activity. The same factors that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increase the risk of developing prediabetes, which include: 

  • Age – The risk of prediabetes/type 2 diabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45. Often, that's because people tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as they age. But diabetes is also increasing dramatically among children, adolescents and younger adults.
  • Race or ethnic background – Although it is unclear why, people of certain races—including blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian-Americans—are most likely to develop prediabetes/type 2 diabetes.
  • Family history of diabetes – The risk of prediabetes/type 2 diabetes increases if a parent of sibling has type 2 diabetes.
  • Being overweight compared to your height (Body Mass Index) – The more fatty tissue you have—especially around your abdomen—the more resistant your cells become to insulin.
  • Low physical activity level – The less active you are, the greater your risk of prediabetes/type 2 diabetes. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
  • High blood pressure (140/90 or higher)
  • High LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, or high triglycerides
  • History of diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) – If you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, your risk of later developing prediabetes/type 2 diabetes increases. If you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds, you're also at increased risk of diabetes.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome – For women, having polycystic ovary syndrome—a common condition characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity— increases the risk of prediabetes/type 2 diabetes.

For more information about prediabetes or diabetes call the Southern Tier Diabetes Coalition at 607.778.3927 or visit the New York State Department of Health website at www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/conditions/diabetes/index.htm or the American Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.org.

11/01/2008