Call it "sugars," "sugs" or "impaired fasting glucose," diabetes is as serious as it is widespread, and the amount of people diagnosed with the disease isn't diminishing with time - it's growing. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 25 million Americans are currently afflicted by diabetes, which equates to approximately eight percent of the country's total population. The association also estimates that an additional seven million citizens have an undiagnosed case of the disease. Before you can begin to learn how to prevent diabetes, however, you need to understand what the disease is.
Know Your Numbers
Diabetes comes in two distinct forms, aptly named type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes often strikes during childhood and stems from the body's inability to produce insulin, which is the natural substance that helps the body process and use blood sugar. People with this form of the disease typically require daily insulin injections in order to manage their condition. As a general rule, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented.
Type 2 diabetes, which is the most prevalent form of the disease, can manifest in one of two ways. Either the body's cells do not properly respond to insulin, or the body does not produce enough of the necessary substance. Though sometimes unavoidable, type 2 diabetes can often be prevented by following certain guidelines.
Know the Odds
Who exactly needs to be thinking about preventing diabetes? Certainly not people already diagnosed with the disease. The fact is that diabetes is related closely with genetics and if one or both of your parents were diagnosed as diabetic then there's a chance that you'll get it too. Both types can be inherited - and environmental factors can increase or decrease the seriousness and likelihood of the disease.
Men with type 1 diabetes have a 1-in-17 chance of passing the disease to their children. Women with type 1 diabetes who gave birth before the age of 25 have a 1-in-25 chance of passing on the trait, and those that gave birth after 25 have a 1-in-100 chance. These odds double if either parent was diagnosed as a diabetic before the age of 11, and if both parents are diabetic then the odds of their child having diabetes is between 1-in-4 and 1-in-10.
Type 2 diabetes is genetic as well but environmental factors play a much larger role in the development and progression of the disease. Parents who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes before the age of 50 have a 1-in-7 chance to pass the trait on to their kids, and parents diagnosed after 50 have 1-in-13 odds that their children will get it. If both parents have type 2 diabetes then the odds that their child will have it too skyrockets to 1-in-2.
Know Your Risk Factors
The first step in prevention is to determine your personal diabetes risk factors. One of the most common causes of diabetes is obesity, but ethnicity and age can also impact your likelihood of developing this condition.
Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans all have an increased risk for developing diabetes, as do people of advanced age. Caucasians are more predisposed to contracting type 1 than any other race.
If any of these risk factors apply to you, it's of paramount importance that you proactively seek and practice diabetes prevention methods.
Proper Diet and Exercise
Eating a proper, nutritional diet and following a daily fitness regimen is key in diabetes prevention. Because obesity often leads to diabetes, you should do everything possible to remain healthy and keep your weight within the proper range for your height, age and build, as recommended by your doctor.
Also, staying healthy helps your body to maintain proper functionality, including insulin production and glucose, or blood sugar, breakdown and implementation. The American Diabetes Association encourages all people to exercise daily and explains that your body can continue to burn glucose for up to 24 hours after physical activity, depending upon the intensity of your workout. Even a low-impact fitness regimen, such as a daily walk or gardening, can greatly improve your well-being, thus raising your chances of avoiding diabetes.
Before developing type 2 diabetes, most people have what is called called prediabetes, which refers to an elevation in the body's blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, many individuals do not discover this condition until they are officially diagnosed with diabetes.
Regular checkups can help you closely monitor your health. If you are at a high risk factor for diabetes, your doctor should check your glucose often. When a spike in blood sugar is detected early, you and your physician can work together to develop a plan of action aimed at alleviating the problem in a calculated effort to prevent type 2 diabetes. While there is no way to absolutely guarantee that you'll not develop diabetes, following these guidelines can greatly improve your chances for avoiding the disease. Talk to your doctor about risk factors and testing; he or she can give you personalized prevention advice based on your medical and family history.