Developing Type 2 diabetes is like getting dumped in a relationship (or a Coke machine falling over, as Jerry Seinfield once said about break-ups on the television show Seinfeld). Even if you are blind-sided when it occurs, it really doesn’t occur overnight. Instead, you may miss the many warning signs, until your doctor tells you the bad news (about diabetes, that is, and not about your relationship).
A major aim for World Diabetes Day, which is today, and Diabetes Awareness Month (which is this month, November) is to help “people learn their risk for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes along with steps to take to potentially reverse course,” as Heather Hodge, Director of Chronic Disease Prevention Programs at the YMCA-USA (also known as the Y-USA for short, in case you don’t have enough time to say the MCA) explained.
The lead up to type 2 diabetes can be missed at two different stages. The first is not properly addressing obesity or being overweight, which are major risk factors for type 2 diabetes. As the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery indicates, over 90% of those with type 2 diabetes are overweight or have obesity. Even modest weight loss (5% of body weight) can significantly reduce the risk of developing diabetes. With the global obesity epidemic continuing to spread and get worse more and more people are at risk for becoming diabetic.
The prevalence of diabetes has been steadily climbing, more than doubling among men and climbing by over 50% among women worldwide between 1980 and 2014. Diabetes not only can lead to major health problems such as heart disease, kidney problems, limb amputations, and early death but also costs for you, business, and society. For example, in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the average annual medical costs for those diagnosed with diabetes is around $13,700.
The stage even closer to diabetes is developing prediabetes, a condition in which your blood sugar levels are elevated (your fasting blood glucose is in the 100 to 125 range, your 2-hour Plasma Glucose between 140–199 mg/dL, or your hemoglobin A1c is between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent) but not yet high enough to be considered diabetes. It’s a bit like your significant other suddenly getting a major makeover or a whole new wardrobe, telling you that something is imminent without really telling you. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 84 million American adults (or over 1 in 3) have prediabetes, but 90% don’t even know they have it because they aren’t getting their blood sugar checked. People who are prediabetic usually do not have any symptoms. As Hodge explained, “Without intervention, 15-30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes within the next five years. When you start to talk about the effect this has on quality of life and our communities, children and wallets, the need for Diabetes Awareness Month really becomes self-evident.”
The good news is that during the lead up or the pre-game show to diabetes, diabetes is not necessarily a fait accompli or a done deal. Get your blood glucose tested to determine your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.