As a Registered Dietitian at the Friedman Diabetes Institute in New York City, I participate in many outreach events to raise awareness about diabetes. Without a doubt, the most common questions I get during these events are:
“What exactly is diabetes?” and
“Am I at risk for developing diabetes?”
These are important questions to a nation dealing with an explosion of prediabetes and diabetes. So let’s get started by covering the basics and you can follow-up by taking a quick, informative, online test from the American Diabetes Association’s website.
What exactly is diabetes?
Diabetes is defined as a condition characterized by high blood sugar resulting from the body’s inability to use blood glucose (AKA: sugar) for energy. Let’s take a look at the different types:
- Prediabetes - meaning: before diabetes, occurs when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to actually have type 2 diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes – is a condition where the body does not properly use insulin or produce enough insulin
- Type 1 Diabetes - occurs when the pancreas does not produce any insulin at all, which means blood glucose cannot enter the cells and be used for energy
- Gestational Diabetes - is a temporary type of diabetes that can happen during pregnancy
At the Friedman Diabetes Institute (FDI) I see patients with all different types of diabetes. I teach people with Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes and prediabetes how to manage their condition. Unlike Type 1, which is an autoimmune disease, Type 2 diabetes and its precursor prediabetes can be prevented through diet and exercise. With this said, FDI has partnered with iBeamforLife to coach people diagnosed with prediabetes. You can click here for FDI videos about diabetes.
Am I at risk for developing diabetes?
- Age – risk goes up as you get older
- Weight – risk goes up if you’re overweight or obese
- Family history of diabetes – it can run in families
- Racial background – some races have a higher risk of developing diabetes
- High blood pressure – often puts you at greater risk of developing diabetes
The big question: Are you at risk? Find out by taking the test offered by the American Diabetes Association. Click here to take the test (it takes less than 5 minutes) and see if you’re at an increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Don’t go it alone. If you scored “5 or higher” it’s important to see your doctor for further testing. If your doctor confirms you have diabetes, ask to be referred to a Certified Diabetes Educator for further information about diabetes and diabetes self-management such as nutrition, exercise, blood sugar testing and medication.
Lower your risk by taking action. There are steps to be taken to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. If you’re overweight, you can lower your risk by losing 5-10% of your body weight. It’s also suggested to get 150 minutes of physical activity per week, which is about 20-30 minutes per day. Taking action really matters. And making healthful choices at each mealtime will serve you and those you love for life.