1 IN 4 DIABETICS DON’T KNOW THEY’RE DIABETIC.
According to the American Diabetes Association, about 25% of Americans age 65 and older are affected by diabetes. One out of four people with diabetes doesn’t even know they have it. As you approach the age of 40, make sure you’re getting tested every three years — or if older or at a higher risk, once a year.
DIABETES: GET THE BASICS
The easiest way to understand diabetes is to know the role of insulin in your body. When you eat, your foods get converted to sugars. Your pancreas releases insulin to carry those sugars to your body’s cells to be used as energy.
WHAT’S YOUR RISK FACTOR?
Most people are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to a variety of genetic factors:
• Age— Your risk for Type 2 diabetes increases as you get older.
• Gender— Men have a slightly higher risk of diabetes than women.
• Race/Ethnicity — African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders are at higher risk.
And lifestyle choices:
• Weight — Being overweight can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
• Inactivity — The more physically active you are, the lower your risk is.
• Smoking/Drinking — If you smoke or drink more than one drink a day (women) or two drinks a day (men), your risk of Type 2 diabetes is greater.
SIDE EFFECTS AND COMPLICATIONS
The most common health problems associated with diabetes occur in your eyes and your feet. You can develop glaucoma, cataracts or different types of retinopathy, and you might develop nerve damage in your feet. Even more severe complications can occur, such as skin infections, kidney disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
But with lifestyle modifications (appropriate diet, exercise and no smoking) and by taking medications prescribed by your physicians, you can keep your risk of complications at a minimum. In fact, it’s critical that diabetics have annual retina, or dilated eye exam.
PROTECTING YOUR EYES
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar damages the blood vessels in the retina (back of the eye). The sooner retinopathy is diagnosed; the more likely treatments will be
successful. Almost ninety percent of vision loss can be avoided through controlled blood sugar levels and annual dilated or retinal eye exam.
People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing eye problems that may lead to blindness. The best way to protect your eyes and to keep them healthy is to get a yearly eye exam from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Eye professionals can detect conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
To prevent or minimize damage to your eyesight, see an eye-care professional if you experience any of these symptoms:
• Blurred vision
• Trouble telling colors apart
• Trouble seeing at night or when reading
• Double vision
• Eye itching
• Loss of sharpness of your vision
• Specks or floaters in your eye
• Trouble seeing objects in peripherals
PREVENTION AND RISK-REDUCTION TIPS
Keep a healthy diet. Well-balanced meals can keep your blood-sugar levels close to normal.
Shed some weight. Dropping excess pounds can reduce your risk of complications from diabetes.
Be active. Improve strength, flexibility and endurance with 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.
Reduce stress. Keep a regular amount of sleep and relaxation as part of your day.
Know your numbers. Keep a close record of your blood-sugar levels to stay in control.
GET TESTED REGULARLY
Now that you’re aware of how negatively diabetes can affect your body, a little test every few years is worth it. If you’re 40 years of age or older, you should be tested every three years. But if you carry a higher risk, you should get tested every year.
To learn more about Diabetes, its symptoms and how to prevent or treat it, talk with your doctor or visit diabetes.org.