We all talk about diabetes and very few of us really know what it is, what causes it, or why it is so dangerous. Over the next few months I am dedicating my blog almost exclusively to in depth discussions about diabetes. That’s how important it is. I would love it if you became an active participant by asking me questions and sharing my blog with your friends and acquaintances. You never know who you might be helping.

diabetes.jpgIf you’re reading this, you likely either have diabetes yourself, have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or have a loved one dealing with diabetes. It is a disease with monumental effects that continues to grow exponentially. According to the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), “The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has risen from 1.5 million in 1958 to 18.8 million in 2010, an increase of epidemic proportions.” Plus, there are at least 80 million people with “prediabetes”.

Over the years, awareness of the disease has definitely improved, but we still have a long way to go as the numbers continue to rise and the statistics are alarming.

The numbers are staggering.

    1. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States and the American Diabetes Association says the numbers may be underreported.
    2. 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, have diabetes. 8.1 million of those don’t even know they have it!
    3. There are 1.7 million new diagnoses each year.
    4. 86 million Americans — that’s 1 in 3 adults — have pre-diabetes… and 90% of them don’t know they have it. This may be the most alarming statistic of all because in many cases the disease can be reversed at this stage with some simple lifestyle changes.

The effects of diabetes are debilitating.

  • 71 percent of adults diagnosed with the disease also suffer from high blood pressure.
  • Diabetics are 1.7 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than the general population.
  • Heart attack rates are 1.8 times higher among diabetics.
  • Diabetics are 1.5 times more likely to suffer from a stroke than the general population.
  • Between 2005 and 2008, 4.2 million diabetics over the age of 40 had diabetic retinopathy — damage to the small blood vessels in the retina that can lead to loss of vision.
  • Diabetes was listed as the primary cause of kidney failure in 44 percent of all new cases in 2011.
  • In 2010, about 73,000 non-traumatic amputations were performed on adults with diagnosed diabetes.
  • And the list goes on….
The impact is widespread.

Approximately one in every nine adults has diabetes and many more have prediabetes. What does that mean for you? It means that even if you don’t personally suffer from the disease, chances are you know someone — or several people — that does.

Diabetes has a great and sometimes devastating impact on individuals, families and society as a whole. And the impact is not only physical in nature, but also emotional, psychological and financial. And recent studies show that prevention and treatment tactics work best when they are tackled as a team rather than by individuals alone.

What now?

diabetes-testGet tested.If you have never been tested for diabetes, do it now. This disease affects all ages and starts wreaking havoc long before any symptoms appear. In this case, what you don’t know can definitely hurt you. On the other hand, early diagnosis can go a long way toward managing, and possibly curing, symptoms. At the very least, it will be educational for you to know where your blood sugar levels lie and how you can keep them at healthy levels.

Make healthy lifestyle changes.It’s never too early, or too late, to start implementing lifestyle changes that have a far-reaching impact, such as increased physical activity, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, eating less processed foods, limiting sweets, etc. This is even more critical if you suffer with obesity or have a family history of diabetes.

Subscribe.Follow me on my blog, on Twitterand on Facebook. I have several posts in the pipeline that offer tips for managing diabetes, making diet and lifestyle tweaks as well as some easy and delicious recipes.

Get the book. Order my book “The Diabetes Solution.” It goes into great depth on how to manage diabetes and includes an easy-to-follow lifestyle and eating plan with simple and enjoyable recipes.
In the meantime, share your thoughts and questions. And let me know if there is a topic you’d like to see covered.

Diabetes testing: Squashing the fear

dbtesting1What is it that keeps people from getting tested for diabetes? I’m no psychologist, but I’d venture that while there are countless reasons for this avoidance, fear of the unknown is among the top reasons. I can’t possibly discuss every single fear, but I can give you a quick glimpse into the test itself and put your mind at ease about its simplicity.

The diabetes test does involve a needle and a little bit of blood, but in most cases it’s quick and relatively painless. There are a few different tests available:

– The AC1 test, also known as the glycated hemoglobin test, is the gold standard because it indicates your average blood sugar levels for a period of two to three months rather than a single point in time. The test itself is simple and doesn’t require any preparation — you can eat and drink normally before the test. It requires a simple blood sample and takes only a few minutes of your time. The blood sample is sent to a lab for analysis — anything greater than 6.5 percent indicates diabetes.

Certain conditions — such as pregnancy or an uncommon form of hemoglobin — make the A1C test inaccurate, however.

– A random blood sugar test examines blood sugar levels at a single point in time. It doesn’t require any preparation and results are available right away. Anything greater than 200 milligrams per deciliter is indicative of diabetes, especially when other symptoms are present.

– The fasting blood sugar test is performed after an overnight fast of at least 8 hours. Like a random blood test, this test only indicates blood sugar levels for a single point in time. Anything greater than 126 mg/dL on two separate tests results in a diagnosis for diabetes.

– The oral glucose tolerance test is the least common of the four tests and it isn’t used very often anymore. In this test, blood sugar levels are measured after an overnight fast and then periodically tested over a two-hour period after drinking a sugary liquid. Diabetes is diagnosed when levels are greater than 200 mg/dL.

The American Diabetes Association recommends testing every three years for non-diabetics over the age of 45, especially if you are overweight. You should be tested sooner if you are overweight and have any other risk factors for type 2 diabetes and/or heart disease.

dbtesting2I get it. Going to the doctor isn’t your idea of fun. It’s scary, time-consuming and costs some money. But routine screening is imperative when it comes to diabetes. It can be controlled and reversed, but only if it’s caught early enough. The silent and painless nature of the disease, however, means it can sneak up on you and cause countless amounts of damage and even death, if it isn’t diagnosed and treated.

I urge you to please put your fears and procrastination aside and go get tested. I promise it’s not as scary as you think.

Don’t forget to order my book The Diabetes Solution – it is full of useful tips and recipes to make for simple and delicious management of diabetes and pre-diabetes!