diabetes, prevention, women, health, pregnancy, maternity, northwest arkansas, women's clinicWhat is diabetes? Who does it affect? And how can you prevent diabetes? Let’s find out!

Diabetes affects more than 34 million Americans and is the seventh leading cause of death. Prevention is the key to slowing the onset of and overcoming diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its insulin as well as it should. This causes sugars to build up in your blood. Diabetes can cause serious health complications, including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

Who Is Affected by It?

Approximately 34 million children and adults have diabetes in the United States. Out of that number, nearly 95% have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors, such as being overweight and physical inactivity. While progress has been made in understanding the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes, the details of how adverse lifestyles combine with genetic risk to determine the risk of developing type 2 diabetes are uncertain.

Type 2 diabetes develops most often in middle-aged and older adults but can appear in young people. Several risk factors increase a person’s risk for developing prediabetes and, ultimately, type 2 diabetes. You can modify some risk factors, but others are non-modifiable.

Risk Factors That You Cannot Change

  • Family history
  • Race or ethnic background
  • Age
  • History of gestational Diabetes

Risk Factors That You Can Change

  • Weight
  • Physical activity
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Abnormal cholesterol (lipid) levels

3 Steps to Prevent Diabetes

These small changes can significantly reduce your risk:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight – If you’re overweight, it impacts more than your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It leads to unhealthy cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, high blood sugar, and even stroke. The good news? Losing just 10-15 pounds can make a big difference.
  2. Eat a balanced diet- Regardless of what cuisine you prefer, here’s what all healthy eating plans have in common: more fruits and vegetables, lean meats and plant-based sources of protein, less added sugar, and processed foods.
  3. Stay physically active – If you’re not into regular exercise, putting together, an exercise plan can be a bummer. But remember, along with your diet and medications, regular physical activity is an important part of managing diabetes or dealing with prediabetes. Because when you’re active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin, so it works more effectively.

By making changes in the above areas, people can reduce their risks or delay the development of diabetes and improve their overall quality of life. To learn more about diabetes and risk factors, visit the American Diabetes Foundation.

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