More than 29 million Americans have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, of those with the disease, the agency estimates that more than 8 million have not been diagnosed and are not being treated for the condition.
On top of that, African Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes, as they are 1.7 times more likely to develop diabetes compared with non-Hispanic whites. In fact, 13.2 percent of all Blacks ages 20 or older have diagnosed diabetes.
Some risk factors for type 2 diabetes can be decreased with lifestyle changes, while other risk factors are tied to family history. Risk factors include:
- Heredity. Having a parent, brother or sister with diabetes increases your risk.
- Age. Most people diagnosed with diabetes are older than 40.
- Ethnic background. Type 2 diabetes is more common among Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos and Asians than among whites.
- Being overweight. People with inactive lifestyles, weighing at least 20 percent more than the recommended weight for their height and build, are at risk.
- High blood sugar. Higher-than-normal blood glucose levels indicate greater chances for diagnosis.
- High blood pressure or heart disease. These comorbidities together greatly impact one’s health.
- Sedentary lifestyle. Inactivity or sitting for prolonged periods of time has been linked to chronic disease.
- Gestational diabetes. Women who develop gestational diabetes while pregnant are at an increased risk.
- Baby’s birth weight. Women who have given birth to babies weighing 9 pounds or more are a higher risk.
- Using certain medicine. Diuretics used to manage high blood pressure and steroids used to help with inflammatory conditions may contribute to type 2 diabetes.
Signs and Symptoms
Dr. Nnemka Ekwueme-Sturdivant of Novant Health Endocrinology said it is common for people to have diabetes for years before they are diagnosed, and it’s important to be aware of the typical symptoms.
According to the American Diabetes Association, type 2 diabetes symptoms include:
- Urinating often.
- Feeling very thirsty.
- Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating.
- Extreme fatigue.
- Blurry vision.
- Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal.
- Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands and/or feet.
“Patients who have diabetes should not ignore it,” Sturdivant said. “They often don’t claim it, but they need to own it and control it.”
Lifestyle is the cornerstone of diabetes prevention, Sturdivant said. “The best way to prevent diabetes is to keep a normal weight,” she said. “Younger children especially should follow a healthy diet and stay active.”
Sturdivant recommends 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days per week, and if possible, exercise including weight and resistance activities three days a week.
She also recommends limiting your carbohydrate intake and filling your diet with vegetables and healthy proteins.
If you have any risk factors or are concerned you may have diabetes, your physician can check using a simple blood test to measure your blood sugar.
Through its Remarkable You initiative, Novant Health offers free health screenings, wellness services, community symposiums and more. Visit NovantHealth.org/RemarkableYou for health-and-wellness tips, articles, healthy recipes and other information.