By Mark Leenay, M.D.
As a physician, I have seen firsthand the devastating complications type 2 diabetes can have on not only a patient, but also their families. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s blood glucose (sugar) levels are too high and can lead to serious complications such as kidney disease, blindness and amputations.
Education about this disease is key and underscores why days like the annual American Diabetes Association Diabetes Alert Day are so important. Diabetes Alert Day encourages individuals to learn more about the risks and prevention of type 2 diabetes.
By the Numbers
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), one in three Americans is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) estimates 30.3 million people in the U.S. have diabetes with 23.1 million people receiving a diagnosis. In addition to that staggering number, approximately 84.1 million adults have prediabetes, meaning they have an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
It is important to know if you have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. According to Mayo Clinic, some risk factors to consider include:
- Weight: Being overweight or obese. A healthy body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 24.9.
- Inactivity: The less active you are, the more likely you are going to be overweight, putting you at greater risk to develop diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program found that increased physical activity and weight loss reduced the chance of prediabetes turning into type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.
- Age: Being over the age of 45.
- Family history: Your risk increases if you have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes.
- Race: African-American, Alaska Native, American-Indian, Asian-American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander are more likely to develop diabetes.
- Waist size: A large waist circumference – larger than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women – can indicate insulin resistance and result in a diabetes diagnosis.
Are you at risk to develop type 2 diabetes? The ADA offers a free Risk Test available through their website for anyone to take.
The good news is that research shows through proper lifestyle modifications, including proper nutrition and exercise, it is possible to prevent, delay or even reverse the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Three ways to achieve this include:
- Lose weight and keep it off. Develop a weight loss strategy that works for you and stick with it.
- Increase daily physical activity. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends getting 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of intense activity. Select an activity you enjoy such as walking, dancing, hiking or running. Be sure to speak with your physician before starting any new exercise routines.
- Make healthy food choices and use portion control. A Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and olive oil is associated with a lower risk of developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
If you are at risk to develop type 2 diabetes, it is important to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician (PCP). Your PCP can work with you to determine next steps and appropriate testing.
For more information, visit the American Diabetes Association or National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases websites.
Dr. Mark Leenay is WellCare’s executive vice president and chief medical officer