Nov. 12, 2014—This November, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is recognizing National Diabetes Month and urging Americans to take steps to reduce their risk of developing the disease. It’s also a time for those who have the disease to guard against related complications.
People with diabetes are nearly 2 times more likely than those without it to die from heart disease, according to the NIH. They are also more vulnerable to serious kidney, eye and nerve diseases.
More than 29 million Americans have diabetes. And another 86 million or more are on the verge of getting it: Their blood sugar levels are abnormally high but not yet elevated enough for an actual diagnosis of diabetes. This condition is known as prediabetes.
There are 3 types of diabetes:
If you have diabetes
If you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, the National Diabetes Education Program encourages following the diabetes ABCs—steps to reduce your risk of diabetes complications. The ABCs stand for:
- A1C test. This test shows what your blood sugar has been over the last 3 months and can help identify your level of diabetes management.
- Blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause a heart attack, stroke or kidney disease. The blood pressure goal for most people with diabetes is below 140/90 mm Hg.
- Cholesterol. LDL—the bad cholesterol—can clog arteries. However, HDL—the good cholesterol—helps clear cholesterol from blood vessels.
Ask your doctor what your ABC goals should be and how to reach them.
If you have prediabetes
The number of Americans living with type 2 diabetes is growing, along with rates of obesity nationwide, according to the NIH. Still, there’s good news: This disease can be prevented. According to the director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, research funded by them shows people with prediabetes who lose just a modest amount of weight—about 15 pounds—may reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58 percent.
If you don’t have diabetes
Even if you don’t have diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends doing your best to stay at a healthy weight, eat well and be active—3 safeguards that can prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes. It is also beneficial to understand your risk factors for developing the disease. This assessment can help you determine if you are at risk of type 2 diabetes.