November is National Diabetes Month—a good time to learn your risks

One in four people with diabetes don’t know they have it—and more than 30 million Americans have the disease, says Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Charles Ruis.

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant, which can put the pregnancy and baby at risk and lead to type 2 diabetes later).

One out of three Americans is at risk of developing diabetes at some point in their lifetime, researchers warn.

“With type 1 diabetes, your body can’t make insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar), so you need to take it every day,” Ruis said. “Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2 diabetes.”

Around five percent of people who have diabetes have type 1, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is currently no way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

“With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels,” Ruis explained. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

· Being overweight

· Being 45 years old or older

· Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes

· Being physically active less than 3 times a week

· Ever having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds

Ruis said African-Americans and Hispanic/Latino-Americans are among those at higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes increases the likelihood of serious health complications, such as heart disease and stroke; blindness and other eye problems; kidney disease and amputations.

Medical costs for people with diabetes are twice as high as for people without diabetes, Ruis said.

“If you have any of the risk factors we listed, you should ask your healthcare provider if you should be tested for diabetes,” he said. “The sooner you know your risks, the sooner you can start making beneficial lifestyle changes.”

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