NORFOLK, Va - More than 30 million people in the United States are living with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Yet, the CDC says only 25 percent actually know they have the deadly disease.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light is what causes it, why its deadly and how you can help prevent it.
News 3: What leads to the disease?
Dr. Light: There are two types of diabetes. Type I and Type II. In Type I diabetes, the body stops producing insulin, which is the chemical that helps regulate blood sugar. Without insulin, your body can no longer remove the sugar from your blood stream, causing an increase in blood sugar levels, which can ultimately contribute to significant medical problems. In Type II diabetes the body creates resistance to insulin. This leads to the body needing to produce more insulin. Eventually the body cannot keep up with the increased insulin production and Type II diabetes occurs.
News 3: What are the risk factors for diabetes?
Dr. Light: There are many risk factors that contribute to the development of diabetes and pre-diabetes. The following are risk factors for the disease:
- High blood pressure
- Elevated levels of triglycerides and low levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL)
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Family history
**Gestational diabetes (a transient form of diabetes occurring during pregnancy) and diabetes can also be concurrent with Polycystic ovarian syndrome**
News 3: What does diabetes put you at risk for?
Dr. Light: Diabetes causes arteriole diseases. They are generally classified into small vessel diseases, such as those involving the eyes, kidneys, and nerves, and large vessel diseases involving the heart and blood vessels. Diabetes accelerates hardening of the arteries, leading to coronary artery disease (heart attack), strokes, and peripheral arterial disease. Peripheral arterial disease leads to pain while walking and, in most severe cases, can lead to amputation.
News 3: Are there any unusual signs or symptoms?
Dr. Light: The early symptoms of untreated diabetes are related to elevated blood sugar levels, and loss of glucose in the urine. High amounts of glucose in the urine cause increased urine frequency and lead to dehydration. This dehydration causes increased thirst and water consumption. Diabetes can also lead to weight loss and an increase in appetite. Without insulin, the body is unable to convert the blood sugars to energy resulting in the body falsely feeling starved. This leads to fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Some diabetics complain of change in vision and increased incident of infection.
News 3: How can we prevent it?
Dr. Light: Diabetes prevention begins with a healthy diet. Increasing physical activity and shedding extra pounds. Remember, it's never too late to change your lifestyle in order to increase health and longevity.
The American Diabetes Association recommends these tips to prevent diabetes:
- Increased physical activity
- Eating more whole grains
- Getting plenty of fiber in your diet
- Skip fad diets and make healthier choices
- Loose extra weight