What is Diabetes and the risks of developing it

Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, is a long-term condition that causes high blood sugar levels causes investable changes in a person’s life.

In 2013 it was estimated that over 382 million people throughout the world had diabetes. Approximately 10% of all diabetes cases are Type 1 and 90% are Type 2. The vast majority of patients with type 2 diabetes initially had Pre-diabetes. Their blood glucose levels where higher than normal, but not high enough to merit a diabetes diagnosis.

Diabetes is classed as a metabolism disorder and refers to the way the body is unable to use digested food for energy and growth properly. Most of what we eat is broken down into glucose. Glucose is a form of sugar in the blood – it is the principal source of fuel for our bodies. A person with diabetes has a condition in which the quantity of glucose in the blood is too elevated (hyperglycemia).

Diabetes is a condition that leads to many significant complications, such as kidney disease and the need for dialysis, heart disease, non-traumatic amputations, and even Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes and its complications can be minimized with the right planning and lifestyle.

Risks for diabetes start increasing significantly once blood glucose reaches 85. Every point above 84 creates a 6% increased risk of developing diabetes over the next decade. So blood sugars of 90-94 lead to 49% increased risk of developing diabetes, and blood glucose levels of 95-99 more than double the risk for diabetes compared to people with blood glucose levels of 84 and under.[i] Truly, the time to be concerned about diabetes is long before you get it!

Typical risk factors for diabetes include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having a family member with diabetes
  • Being African American, Pacific Islander, Native American or Hispanic descent
  • Having a blood pressure 140/90
  • Elevated LDL and not enough HDL cholesterol
  • Exercising less than three times a week.

While we can’t control some of these factors, people can make an effort to maintain a normal healthy weight and to exercise. Weight gain can lead to insulin resistance, the first step toward diabetes. Exercising three times a week, even if it is a 30-minute walk five days a week, helps prevent insulin resistance and helps manage weight.

[i] Nichols GA, Hillier TA, Brown JB. Normal fasting plasma glucose and type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Am J of Medicine