Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, is a group of diseases that involve problems with insulin, the hormone that impacts glucose regulation. If left untreated, it can cause many complications. Currently, there is no cure for diabetes, but it can be well managed.
Diabetes—a chronic condition—can have a significant impact on the individual. Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death for individuals with diabetes. Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause damage to blood vessels throughout the body. Damage to vessels that supply blood to the heart muscles and brain can lead to heart disease and stroke. Heart disease affects individuals with diabetes almost twice as often as it affects people without diabetes. Through consistent communication with your healthcare provider, healthy lifestyle practices, and good health management, you can reduce your chance of negative health outcomes.
In Washington state alone, 627,000 people have diabetes and nearly two million more have prediabetes. People with prediabetes are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Eleven out of 12 people with prediabetes do not even know they have it.
Prediabetes exists when blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are higher than the normal range, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes by the medical provider. Having prediabetes not only increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, but also increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Between 15 percent and 30 percent of people with prediabetes can prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes with healthy nutrition and an active lifestyle. Without weight loss and moderate physical activity, people at risk for Type 2 diabetes could develop it within five years. As a consequence, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in our state.
What can you do?
Increase your awareness about diabetes. Visit the American Diabetes Association website. Know what resources exist in the state and in your community to help you, a family member, or a friend manage or prevent this chronic condition. Visit WIN211 to get statewide and regional information about services or resources available in your community to support management and/or prevention of diabetes. Find out more about diabetes, prediabetes, and your risk by taking the Risk Test.
Most importantly, talk with your healthcare provider.
Contributor Dr. Cheryl Farmer manages the Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Prevention Program at the Washington State Department of Health.