Over 34 million Americans (10% of the population) have diabetes. Another 1.5 million are added to that total every year. With this chronic disease running rampant, it’s only natural to be curious about your own risk.
Here, Dr. Michael Skardasis and our team at Optimal Performance Medicine walk through the common risk factors for diabetes and explain the necessary steps to take control of your health.
Understanding the types of diabetes
There are two main types of diabetes (type 1 and type 2); each affects your ability to produce and effectively use insulin — a hormone your pancreas releases, enabling your cells to absorb the sugar in your blood.
Without insulin, your blood becomes saturated in sugar, which leads to symptoms and complications of diabetes.
With type 1 diabetes, your pancreas either doesn’t produce insulin at all or doesn’t produce enough. This is typically diagnosed at a young age and is the least common type of diabetes, but it’s possible to develop type 1 diabetes as an adult, too.
Type 2 diabetes usually stems from lifestyle habits and is diagnosed later in life. It occurs when your cells stop responding to the insulin. Your pancreas continues to release insulin but inevitably it can’t keep up with the amount of glucose in your blood.
Understanding the differences between the two types of diabetes is the first step in assessing your risk.
A note on prediabetes
Prediabetes — one of the least talked-about types of diabetes — means that you have higher-than-normal blood sugar levels, but they aren't high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes yet. It means that without intervention, you are likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Who’s at risk for diabetes?
Those who are most at risk for type 1 diabetes typically have a family history of that type of diabetes. There are many more risk factors, however, for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
Some of the most common risk factors for type 2 and prediabetes include:
- Being 45 years old or older
- Being overweight
- Having a family history of type 2 diabetes
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Having a history of gestational diabetes
Certain demographics are also at an increased risk. For example, African Americans, Hispanics/Latino Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders, and Asian Americans have been found to develop type 2 diabetes and prediabetes more often.
What can I do if I’m at risk?
If you’re at risk for diabetes, you’ve already taken the best first step: You’ve started to gather information. At Optimal Performance Medicine, we put patient education at the top of our treatment plans, so you know exactly how to manage your health.
The next step in mitigating your risk and perhaps preventing diabetes altogether is getting our expert help in creating an action plan.
Depending on your needs, we may recommend that you incorporate more exercise into your daily routine and make adjustments to your diet. These changes help you lose weight (a major risk factor) and become an overall healthier person.
We walk alongside you as you work toward overhauling your health, guiding you, and offering the support you need when you need it. If you’re on diabetes medication, our goal is to help you manage your system to the point where you can reduce or eliminate your need for diabetes drugs.
If you’d like more information about diabetes or if you’d like to talk to us about a management plan, you can request an appointment online or over the phone at our Woodstock, Georgia, office today.