Employee & Community Health

Diabetes: Could you be at risk? 

11/30/2017 by Dr. Rozalina McCoy

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Almost one in 10 Americans - 30 million people - has diabetes, and one in four don't know they have it. If you're over 65, your chance of having diabetes is 25%. Most people with diabetes - 95% - have type 2, which is a chronic disease caused by progressive resistance to insulin. Type 1 diabetes, caused by your body's inability to make insulin, accounts for most of the remaining cases. 

Type 2 diabetes is a complex disease caused by a variety of personal, lifestyle, environmental and genetic causes. Because it's possible to change many of the risk factors for diabetes, the disease can be delayed, prevented and sometimes even reversed. This is why it's so important to understand what contributes to the development of diabetes and know whether or not you have, or are at risk for, it. 

With prediabetes, blood glucose is elevated above normal - fasting blood sugar less than 100 mg/dL or hemoglobin A1c less than 5.7%. But it's still lower than it would be for diabetes - fasting blood sugar above 125 mg/dL or hemoglobin A1c above 6.4%. One in three American adults has prediabetes, but fewer than 12% know it. Prediabetes will progress to diabetes over time if the risk factors aren't identified and addressed. 

If you have prediabetes, losing a small amount of weight - as little as 5-7% of your body weight (10-14 pounds for a 200-pound person) - and getting regular physical activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week) can lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. 

In addition, these positive lifestyle changes to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes also would improve the overall physical and emotional well-being of you and your family. 

Take a quick quiz

The American Diabetes Association has developed a quick quiz to help you determine if you're at risk for diabetes. You can take it here and calculate your score. The higher your score, the higher your risk of having or developing type 2 diabetes. If you scored five or higher, talk with your health care provider to learn whether being screened with a fasting blood sugar test is right for you. 

Remember, you can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes with simple, proven lifestyle changes. There are many ways to lead a healthier life, but they all involve being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a nutritious, balanced diet. Your health care provider and team are there to help, along with a number of community-based health promotion programs like the Diabetes Prevention Program.  

Dr. Rozalina McCoy is an endocrinologist and primary care physician in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Primary Care Internal Medicine (PCIM). She specializes in the management of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and thyroid disorders. Dr. McCoy also is a health services researcher who is passionate about improving the care of patients with diabetes, reducing their burden of treatment and hypoglycemia, and working with community-based organizations to help everyone access evidence-based health-promotion programs.