Are you at risk for diabetes? According to the Center for Disease Control, 40% of adult Americans will develop diabetes mellitus in their lifetime. This number is reflective of an almost 100% increase over the last 20 years.1 Furthermore, in 2015, diabetic patients are living longer than they did many years ago. This combination of increased incidence and improved longevity leads to more patients at risk of developing diabetes related complications.
Adult onset diabetes is a very complicated disease related to the body’s inability to properly metabolize glucose. Chronic exposure to elevated glucose levels is associated with numerous complications including infection, vision loss, kidney failure, chronic pain, stroke, and heart disease, among others.
Accordingly, CDC statistics estimate that diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in this country.
When it comes to healthcare, it is always better to be proactive rather than reactive. Since November is American Diabetes month, now would be a good time to consider your risk factors for developing diabetes, and make any necessary changes in your life that could prevent or delay the development of this potentially devastating disease.
Are you at risk?
Common risk factors that are known to increase your chance of developing diabetes include:
1) Being overweight
2) Being underactive/sedentary
3) Having a strong family history of 1st degree relatives with diabetes
4) Having a personal history of developing gestational (pregnancy related) diabetes
5) Having a personal history of high blood pressure
6) Having a personal history of abnormal cholesterol or triglycerides
8) Drinking too much alcohol
9) Getting too much or too little sleep (over 8 hours or less than 6 hours) per night.2
10) Eating an unhealthy diet
11) Getting older/aging
What can you do?
Well it’s hard to change your family history, and equally as hard to prevent getting older, so you cannot do much about these risk factors. However, many of the other risk factors are modifiable. If you are sedentary, get up and get going. Work closely with your physician to develop a plan directed at introducing activity and exercise into your life, and a plan for losing weight. People with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 are considered obese. It is estimated that people with a BMI between 30-35 have up to twice the risk of developing diabetes compared to those with a BMI of 25-30.3 Do you know what your BMI is? If not, find out, and take action to maintain it with in a healthy range.
Modify your diet. Red meats, processed meats and sugar sweetened beverages have all been linked to an increased risk of developing diabetes. On the other hand, a “Mediterranean” diet, high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and olive oil, has been linked to a lower risk of developing diabetes.4-7 Take steps to introduce these items more frequently into your meals.
And of course, avoid those bad habits. Avoid tobacco use and only consume alcohol in moderation. Make sure you are getting the appropriate amount of sleep.
Unfortunately, even if you do everything right, you can still get diabetes. So make sure you see your physician for age/disease indicated evaluations. Your provider will be able to perform any necessary testing that could predict an increased risk for developing diabetes later in life, or even diagnose new onset diabetes today. Through effort and change, you can decrease your risk of developing this lifelong and potentially devastating disease. Furthermore, it is never too late to modify your habits and lifestyle. Even if you already have developed diabetes, modification of diet, increased activity, weight loss, and avoiding bad habits will greatly help control the disease and slow or even prevent the development of complications.
1 Gregg, Edward, et al. Trends in lifetime risk and years of life lost due to diabetes in the USA, 1985–2011: a modelling study. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology 2(11):867-874, 2014.
2 Cappuccio, FP, et al. Quantity and quality of sleep and incidence of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetes Care 33(2):414-420, 2010.
3 Narayan, K.M.V, et al. Effect of BMI on Lifetime Risk for Diabetes in the U.S. Diabetes Care 30(6):1562-1566, 2007.
4 Pan, A, et al. Changes in red meat consumption and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: three cohorts of US men and women. JAMA Intern Med 173(14):1328, 2013
5 van Dam, RM, et al. Dietary patterns and risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus in U.S. men. Ann Intern Med 136(3):201, 2001.
6 van Dam, RM, et al. Dietary fat and meat intake in relation to risk of type 2 diabetes in men. Diabetes Care 25(3):417, 2002.
7 Ley, SH, et al. Prevention and management of type 2 diabetes: dietary components and nutritional strategies. Lancet 383(9933):1999-2007, 2014.