Each year, more people are diagnosed with prediabetes, a serious but reversible health condition that puts them at risk of developing not only type 2 diabetes (which has no cure), but also heart disease and strokes.
Approximately 34.1 million U.S. adults — more than 1 in 10 —have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and 7.3 million of those adults who met laboratory criteria were unaware or did not report having the disease, according to data from the CDC’s 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report
Diabetes Rates By Country 2021
Rank Country 2021 Population
1 China 1,444,216,107
2 India 1,393,409,038
3 USA 332,915,073
- Total: 34.2 million people have diabetes (10.5% of the US population)
- Diagnosed: 26.9 million people, including 26.8 million adults
- Undiagnosed: 7.3 million people (21.4% are undiagnosed)
- Total: 88 million people aged 18 years or older have prediabetes (34.5% of the adult US population)
- 65 years or older: 24.2 million people aged 65 years or older have prediabetes
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects a body’s reaction to blood glucose, the blood sugar that gives us energy. Typically, our body uses a hormone called insulin, which is produced in the pancreas, to help move glucose into our cells to give them energy. People with diabetes either do not produce insulin, or their bodies cannot make or use it well.
Type 1 Diabetes
A person with type 1 diabetes does not produce any insulin or produces it in very minimal amounts. They must rely on artificial insulin to regulate their blood glucose. Typically, type 1 diabetes appears in children. The causes of type 1 diabetes are still largely unknown. Genetics has been found to play a role, but other nonspecific environmental factors can trigger the body’s immune system to attack insulin-producing areas of the pancreas, damaging it beyond repair. Most people with type 1 diabetes can live long and healthy lives. They must continue to monitor their blood glucose and self-administer insulin accordingly, but with practice this is not difficult.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes tends to present later in life — it is often referred to as “adult-onset diabetes — and affects a wide variety of people. People who develop type 2 diabetes can produce insulin, but they do not make enough, and their cells respond poorly to the insulin that is created. As with type 1 diabetes, there is no cure for type 2 diabetes. However, by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and monitoring insulin and blood glucose carefully, most people with type 2 diabetes can live a normal, healthy life.
Some people develop diabetes during pregnancy — a condition known as gestational diabetes. As with other forms of diabetes, symptoms and outcomes can be improved by eating a healthy diet and getting a good amount of exercise. With most cases of gestational diabetes, the patient’s blood sugar normalizes after birth.
What Is Prediabetes?
Many people experience years of a condition called prediabetes before they develop type 2 diabetes. A person with prediabetes has blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, an indication that there may be an issue with insulin production or absorption. Fortunately, prediabetes can be reversed when care is taken with diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors. Symptoms of prediabetes include fatigue, frequent urination, and increased thirst; however, most people with prediabetes do not experience symptoms.
How Diabetes Affects Your Body
If no action is taken, prediabetes will typically develop into irreversible type 2 diabetes. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes must be managed carefully, and neither can be cured. For a person with either type of diabetes, if sugar is allowed to build up in the bloodstream, it can cause a cascading series of complications that may lead to heightened risks for serious, long-term health issues such as heart disease and damage to almost every area of the body including the nerves, kidneys, eyes, skin.
Lab Test Can Improve Your Quality of Care
Prediabetes and diabetes are diagnosed through a simple test called the A1C. Using a pinprick, your healthcare provider will draw a drop of blood, which is then sent to a laboratory. There, your blood will be analyzed, and your blood glucose levels will allow your doctor to determine whether you have diabetes, prediabetes, or other metabolic problems that need to be addressed. To make a more specific diagnosis, your provider may order further tests, including a fasting glucose blood sugar test or a urine analysis.
Who is at risk for type 2 diabetes?
Many Americans are at risk for type 2 diabetes. Your chances of getting it depend on a combination of risk factors such as your genes and lifestyle. The risk factors include.
- Having prediabetes, which means you have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes.
- Being overweight or having obesity
- Being age 45 or older
- A family history of diabetes
- Being African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander
- Having high blood pressure
- Having a low level of HDL (good) cholesterol or a high level of triglycerides
- A history of diabetes in pregnancy
- Having given birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more
- An inactive lifestyle
- A history of heart disease or stroke
- Having depression
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Having acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition in which your skin becomes dark and thick, especially around your neck or armpits
How can I prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes?
If you are at risk for diabetes, you may be able to prevent or delay getting it. Most of the things that you need to do involve having a healthier lifestyle. So, if you make these changes, you will get other health benefits as well. You may lower your risk of other diseases, and you will probably feel better and have more energy. The changes are
- Losing weight and keeping it off. Weight control is an important part of diabetes prevention. You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5 to 10% of your current weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, your goal would be to lose between 10 to 20 pounds. And once you lose the weight, it is important that you don’t gain it back.
- Following a healthy eating plan. It is important to reduce the amount of calories you eat and drink each day, so you can lose weight and keep it off. To do that, your diet should include smaller portions and less fat and sugar. You should also eat a variety of foods from each food group, including plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It’s also a good idea to limit red meat and avoid processed meats.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise has many health benefits, including helping you to lose weight and lower your blood sugar levels. They both lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week. If you have not been active, talk with your health care professional to figure out which types of exercise are best for you. You can start slowly and work up to your goal.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking can contribute to insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. If you already smoke, try to quit.
- Talk to your health care provider to see whether there is anything else you can do to delay or to prevent type 2 diabetes. If you are at high risk, your provider may suggest that you take one of a few types of diabetes medicines.
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