As You Age, Your Risk Increases.
Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., and your risk for developing the disease increases as you age. So beginning on your 45th birthday, you should add another exam to your annual physical - a diabetes screening, especially if you are overweight. It is also recommended that you be tested again at three-year intervals if your first test is normal.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes prevents the body from properly using or producing insulin, a hormone that allows the body to use starches, sugar and other food as energy.
Many people are familiar with type 1 diabetes, when the body does not produce any insulin. People usually develop type 1 early in life and must take daily insulin injections to stay alive.
But 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases are type 2, according to the American Diabetes Association. This type of diabetes results from the body's inability to produce enough or properly use insulin. Losing weight or improving nutrition and exercise can often control it. Occasionally it must be regulated with oral medications and/or insulin injections.
A Silent Killer.
Often people with type 2 diabetes don't know they have the disease until they develop serious complications. Older adults are particularly at risk because they often mistake the warning signs of diabetes with symptoms commonly associated with aging. After all, many of the symptoms are about the same.
But the effects are not the same. If left undetected and untreated, diabetes can lead to eye damage and blindness, kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, impotence, nerve damage (which can lead to amputations of a lower limb) and in some cases, death.
Health care professionals can check the level of glucose in the bloodstream to help determine the possible presence of diabetes. In some cases, this reading is taken after a person has been given a drink containing glucose. This is a glucose tolerance test. Another method is a simple finger-stick blood screening, where no fasting is required.
Reduce Your Risk for Complications.
If you have diabetes, you can reduce your risk for complications if you are educated about your disease, learn and practice the skills necessary to better control your blood glucose levels and receive regular checkups from your health care team.
We're Here To Help.
Visit our Web site at www.christusstpatrick.org for more information on diabetes and other health care topics.