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Diabetes on the Rise

A new study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that more people have diabetes now than they did 20 years ago. Specifically, they believe that the rates have nearly doubled since 1988! The most recent data suggests that almost 10% of the population (over age 20) has a diagnosis of diabetes, or about 21 million people. This information was taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is relevant because it means that the information is  taken from a cross-section of the entire American population.

Hearing that more people have diabetes than ever before isn't surprising to me. It's a little bit of a doom and gloom report. But having diabetes and not managing it well - either by choice or by ignorance of diagnosis - is even greater doom and gloom. So many of the complications of diabetes are PREVENTABLE. A dietitian I used to work with would often say that when it comes to diabetes, ignorance is not bliss. Refusing to check your blood sugar won't keep it from getting out of control, and cause lasting damage to your body!

In addition to those with a diagnosis of diabetes, the study wanted to see how many people are undiagnosed. Turns out that percentage of undiagnosed individuals has stayed about the same, meaning that of all diabetes cases out there, more people have a name for what's going on. Perhaps we've gotten better at screening people - whether it's screening done by the physician in a traditional setting, or by pop-up clinics or health fairs. This is a step in the right direction for diabetes management.

But again, ignorance is not bliss. It is so important to be screened regularly, and to know. When you are armed with knowledge, it's even possible to prevent (or significantly delay) the disease in the first place. 

There isn't a precise science for knowing whether you will develop diabetes. Here are some risk factors and symptoms to be aware of:

  • Over 40
  • Overweight and/or an inactive lifestyle
  • Ethnicity: Native American or Native Alaskan; being of African, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, or Pacific Islander decent
  • Previously had a baby over 9 lbs (for women)
  • Extreme thirst or hunger
  • Urinating frequently (hourly?)
  • Fatigue

Especially if you fall into one of the above categories, make sure that you have been tested in the last year for diabetes. It's a simple blood test that can be done in your doctor's office. For more information on risk factors, check out the American Diabetes Association.

Come back later this week, for more posts on the different types of diabetes and how to interpret your test results.