Diabetes is a serious chronic disease that poses a major health problem. Nearly 30.3 million people in the United States (9.4% of the population) have diabetes. About one-third of these people do not know they have diabetes. Each year, 1.5 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed. In Illinois, approximately 1.3 million (12.5% of the population) adults have diabetes, but roughly 341,000 of those don’t know they have diabetes. It is estimated that 84 million Americans have prediabetes, of which 3.6 million live in Illinois. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death nationally and in Illinois.
Individuals with diabetes are at an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, dental disease, and lower extremity amputations (not related to injuries). Diabetes and its complications occur among all age, racial, and ethnic groups.
What are Prediabetes and Diabetes?
Prediabetes is a health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that by making lifestyle changes – losing weight and increasing physical activity – people can prevent or delay prediabetes from progressing to diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food that is eaten is turned into glucose (sugar) for the body to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the body’s cells. When you have diabetes, the body either does not make enough insulin or cannot use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in the blood.
There are 2 main types of diabetes:
Type 1 – This type of diabetes can occur at any age, although it most often appears in childhood or during the teen years. With this form of diabetes, the body no longer makes insulin. Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes taking insulin and possibly another injectable medicine; making wise food choices; being physically active; taking aspirin daily, for some; and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.
Type 2 – Formerly called adult-onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes, this type is the most common form of diabetes and can develop at any age, even in childhood. Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which fat, muscle, and liver cells do not use insulin properly. At first, the body keeps up with the added demand by producing more insulin, but, in time, the body is unable to produce enough insulin. Being overweight and inactive increases the chance of developing this form of diabetes. Treatment includes using diabetes medicines; making wise food choices; being physically active; taking aspirin daily, for some; and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.
What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?
Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased hunger
- Weight loss, despite eating more than usual
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing sores or frequent infections
Who is Most at Risk for Developing Type 2 Diabetes?
People with certain risk factors are at greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. These risk factors include:
- Having prediabetes
- Being over the age of 45
- Being overweight
- Having a family history of diabetes
- Having an African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native racial or ethnic background
- Being physically active less than three times a week
- Having had gestational (during pregnancy) diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds
- Having high blood pressure
Can Diabetes be Prevented?
People with diabetes risk factors are at greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, however, developing Type 2 diabetes is not inevitable.
Lifestyle modifications can lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by almost 60%. These modifications include:
- Weight loss – if you are overweight, losing 5% - 7% of your weight
- Physical activity – getting 150 minutes of physical activity a week. That is just 30 minutes a day, five days a week
- Follow-up – check with your primary physician for control of blood pressure and cholesterol
To learn more, explore the numerous general and professional diabetes resources listed.
Illinois Department of Public Health
Diabetes Prevention and Control Program