Summary: One in four Americans with type 2 diabetes doesn’t know they have the disease. Walking around with untreated diabetes more than doubles your risk of stroke, heart attack, and early death. Add years to your life by knowing your status, and then managing the condition. This article provides a two-minute online assessment, which shows if you are at risk. [This article first appeared on the website LongevityFacts.com. Author: Brady Hartman.]
Today, one in eight adult Americans has diabetes, according to the latest report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Amazingly, one in four of them doesn’t know they have the disease. Walking around with untreated diabetes more than doubles your risk of severe health complications, including stroke, heart attack, and early death. You can add years to your life by managing type 2 diabetes, a disease which can be treated with inexpensive tablets.
Minimize the health-harming effects of type 2 diabetes by getting tested and treated early. This article provides ADA guidelines as to who should get tested for type 2 diabetes. Additionally, you can assess your risk of having diabetes using the free online assessment included in this article.
- One in four people with the disease is unaware they have diabetes, a practice that steals years from their lives unnecessarily. They don’t know they have the disease because they haven’t taken the test.
- Early detection and proper treatment for type 2 diabetes can help the prevent the deadly effects of the disease and add years to a diabetic’s life
- Typical treatment for type 2 diabetes starts with inexpensive, once a day tablets.
- Use a free online assessment to know your risk.
- If you are at high risk, then take the test for type 2 diabetes.
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetes, also called hypoglycemia, is a serious health problem in which blood sugar levels rise much higher than normal. The CDC reports that one in eleven Americans of all ages has the disease. For adults, the numbers are much higher. According to the CDC, one in eight American adults has diabetes. The risk of getting type 2 diabetes increases with age – adults are more likely than children to get it.
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?
There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5% all diagnosed cases, and, Type 2 diabetes – the sole focus of this article – accounts for about 95% of diabetes cases.
Insulin – the chemical the keeps blood sugar levels down – is at the core of the problem. In type 2 diabetics, two problems occur: 1) The body is not making enough insulin and 2) the insulin that is made cannot effectively lower your blood sugar, in a condition known as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, a consistent factor in type 2 diabetes, refers to the body’s inability to use insulin efficiently.
As a person’s blood sugar levels go up, the pancreas makes extra insulin at first, but eventually, it can’t keep up, causing blood sugar levels to soar. Excess blood sugar wreaks havoc throughout the body, causing damage to a variety of organs and systems.
When first diagnosed, most type 2 diabetics are not given insulin injections. For the newly diagnosed, most diabetics are prescribed a drug called metformin. Metformin is an inexpensive generic, comes in tablet form, and has a decade’s long track record of safety. Ask your doctor.
Why Is It Type 2 Diabetes Dangerous?
Left untreated, the soaring blood sugar caused by diabetes creates serious health problems throughout the body, including blindness, kidney failure, stroke, heart disease, loss of limbs and double the risk of death. The major health conditions and complications, caused by diabetes, include the following:
Blindness and Vision Loss: Diabetes is the leading cause of adult-onset blindness. Diabetes leads to diabetic retinopathy, damage to blood vessels in the retina, glaucoma, an increase in fluid pressure in the eye and cataracts, a clouding of the lens.
Kidney Disease & Kidney Failure: Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney damage. High blood sugar levels caused by diabetes can damage the kidneys, which can cause chronic kidney disease, leading to kidney failure. The damage occurs long before a person notices any symptoms.
Double the Risk of Fatal Heart Attack and Stroke: Compared to non-diabetics, people with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to have a stroke or die due to a heart attack —at an earlier age – according to this Systematic Review, which followed over 220,000 patients in total, for nearly 11 years.
Cancer: The body of evidence shows that people with diabetes are at a higher risk of various cancers, with their risk increasing by 20% – 150%, depending on the type of cancer. Doctors are not exactly sure why diabetes induces cancer. However, they suspect that high blood sugar and external insulin may stimulate its growth. Compared with nondiabetics, when diabetics get cancer, their outlook is dim. A recent systematic review found a that people with diabetes with cancer die at a 40% higher rate, compared to those without it.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. While researchers can’t exactly prove that the drug metformin prevents cancer, a growing body of evidence has shown that type 2 diabetics who regularly take the drug get the disease a third less often.
Nerve Damage: About 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage caused by the disease, a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. People with diabetes, over time, usually develop nerve damage throughout the body causing pain, tingling, or loss of feeling in the hands, arms, legs, and feet. This nerve damage can occur in every organ system, including the digestive system, heart, penis, and vagina.
Loss of Limbs: People with diabetes have significantly amputated at a rate eight times higher than people without the disease.
Diabetes Steals Years From Your Life
Researchers investigating diabetes followed the medical records and death certificates of about 600,000 adults for a quarter of a century. As reported in an earlier article on the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, a large study estimated that 40% of Americans alive today will develop the disease. The report – published in 2014 in the journal, The Lancet – also contained some good news. The study’s authors found that people with diabetes are living longer than a quarter of a century ago, due to better medications for both the disease and its complications. Dr. Gregg, the lead author of the Lancet Study, said:
“People with type 2 diabetes are living longer due to better medications and treatments for both the disease and its complications,” The lead study author added, “Even after people develop complications of diabetes that used to increase risk of death, there are so many ways to keep people alive longer these days.”
For example, let’s take a man or woman newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 40. According to the Lancet researchers, the average male diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the 1990’s was expected to lose eight years of life. A decade later, the situation has improved. With the advent of better medications, for the same man in the 2000’s, that number decreased to about six years.
Women have also seen an improvement in life expectancies. A 40-year-old woman was expected to lose nine years of life expectancy in the 1990’s, a decade later she was expected to lose just under seven years in the 2000s.
Don’t let the numbers scare you. The fact is, the more aggressively you control type 2 diabetes, the better your odds.
Who Should Take the Type 2 Diabetes Test?
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that two types of people have their blood sugar screened:
- Anyone older than 45 is advised to take the test for type 2 diabetes, a simple blood sugar screening, and if the results are normal, get re-screened every three years afterward.
- Regardless of age, any person with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 25, who also has additional risk factors is advised to take the test for type 2 diabetes. Other risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, a history of heart disease, high cholesterol levels, or having a close relative with diabetes. Additional risk factors for women include having a history of diabetes in pregnancy, having delivered a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds, or a history of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
What Are Type 2 Diabetes Tests?
The most common tests doctors use to screen for type 2 diabetes include the A1C (Glycohemoglobin) test and the Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS) test. Doctors also use the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT).
How To Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?
Factors Beyond Our Control
According to the CDC and the ADA, some of the risk factors for diabetes are beyond a person’s control, including a person’s genetics and growing older.
Factors Within Our Control
The consensus is that the risk of type 2 diabetes can be greatly minimized with a healthy lifestyle.
Many factors are within a person’s control, including 1) being overweight/obese, 2) an improper diet, 3) being more active 4) aggressively treating prediabetes.
Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
Here is a full article on preventing type two diabetes. Additionally, two other articles on LongevityFacts.com show you how to have a healthy diet and lose weight. The first article shows you the health benefits of a diet rich in fruit in vegetables – a diet which can help you to lose weight, reduce blood sugar. The second report shows you how to eat healthy by incorporating ten servings of fruits and vegetables into your day.
Coffee May Lower Diabetes Risk
It’s hard to believe, but coffee is a healthy beverage.
The dark brew is loaded with antioxidants and bioactive compounds. research that shows that coffee drinkers have reduced rates of type 2 diabetes.
In fact, research shows that coffee drinkers have lower rates of type 2 diabetes. Read all about coffee’s effects on the risk of diabetes in the article highlighted in the link.
Online Diabetes Risk Assessment
Are you at risk for type 2 diabetes?
An Australian diabetes organization provides a free 2-minute online assessment that can determine your odds.
As a reminder, do not use standard pant size for your waist measurement, instead, while standing, measure at the thickest point, passing through your belly button. Although a measuring tape is better, you can also use a standard 8 1/2” x 11” (21.6 cm x 27.9 cm) sheet of paper.
The ADA also provides a free online assessment. The ADA test isn’t as accurate as the Australian test because it doesn’t display your actual odds.
Take Home Message
- 1 in 4 Americans with diabetes don’t know they have it.
- An online assessment can tell you if you are at high risk.
- For those diagnosed with diabetes, inexpensive treatment prevents the disease from stealing years of life.
- It pays to get tested for type 2 diabetes.
Related Article: The magazine US News and World Report ranks the DASH Diet plan as the number one ‘Best for Diabetes’.
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Chukwuemeka Nwaneri, Helen Cooper, and David Bowen-Jones. Mortality in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: magnitude of the evidence from a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. British Journal of Diabetes & Vascular Disease. 15 July 2013. DOI: 10.1177/1474651413495703. Link to article.
Barone BB, Yeh H, Snyder CF, Peairs KS, Stein KB, Derr RL, Wolff AC, Brancati FL. Long-term All-Cause Mortality in Cancer Patients With Preexisting Diabetes Mellitus A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2008;300(23):2754–2764. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.824. Link to article.
1) Diagnosis, Advice, and Treatment: This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. The information provided in this article should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for the diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911, or an equivalent emergency hotline number, for all medical emergencies. As well, consult a licensed physician before changing your diet, supplement or exercise programs. 2) Photos, External Links & Endorsements: This article is not intended to endorse companies, organizations or products. Links to external websites, depiction/mention of company names or brands, are intended only for illustration and do not constitute endorsements.