Who Has Diabetes?
Of the 16 million people with diabetes, about one-third of them don’t even know they have it. Every year, 800,000 additional cases are diagnosed. It affects over six percent of the population now, and it is projected that nearly nine percent of all Americans will have diabetes by the year 2025. Health care costs for diabetes are estimated to be nearly $100 billion per year in the US.
What is Diabetes?
Your body changes most of the food you eat into glucose (a form of sugar). Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows glucose to enter all the cells of your body and be used as energy.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when a person’s body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use insulin properly. When you have diabetes, the sugar builds up in your blood instead of moving into the cells. Too much sugar in the blood can lead to serious problems, including heart disease and damage to the nerves and kidneys.
There are 2 types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce any insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Between 90-95% of people who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
How can I help myself stay healthy if I have diabetes?
Although diabetes can’t be cured, you can still live a long and healthy life. The single most important thing you can do is control your blood sugar level. You can do this by eating right, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and, if needed, taking oral medicines or insulin.
Eat a healthy diet. The recommended diet for many people who have diabetes is very similar to that suggested for everyone: low in fat, low in cholesterol, low in salt and low in added sugar. In order to help keep your blood sugar at a healthy level, t’s important to eat at least 3 meals per day and never skip a meal. For more information, read our Diabetes and Nutrition handout.
Exercise. Exercising will help your body use insulin and lower your blood sugar level. It also helps control your weight, gives you more energy and is good for your overall health. For more information, read our Diabetes and Exercise handout.
Maintain a healthy weight. Losing excess weight and maintaining a healthy body weight will help you in 2 ways. First, it helps insulin work better in your body. Second, it will lower your blood pressure and decrease your risk for heart disease.
Take your medicine. If your diabetes can’t be controlled with diet, exercise and weight control, your doctor may recommend medicine or insulin. Oral medicines (taken by mouth) can make your body produce more insulin or help your body use the insulin it makes more efficiently. Some people need to add insulin to their bodies with insulin injections, insulin pens or insulin pumps. Always take medicines exactly as your doctor prescribes.