More about Diabetes

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that keeps your body from making or using insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas. Insulin helps turn the food you eat into the energy your body needs. When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t change food into energy as well as it should. Without proper treatment, sugar builds up in your blood, which can lead to problems with the heart, kidney, eyes, legs and feet. People with diabetes have twice the chance of having heart disease and a stroke.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. It is typically first diagnosed in childhood. Type 2 diabetes is when the body does not respond as it should to insulin. Both children and adults can get type 2 diabetes.

Who is at risk for diabetes?

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Older age
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Having diabetes during a pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
  • Higher than normal levels of blood sugar, called impaired glucose tolerance or pre-diabetes
  • Not exercising

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes are less clearly defined. Family history, genetics and problems with the body’s system for fighting infection can lead to a higher risk for type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes is more common for African Americans and for people with lower incomes or education.

What is the impact of diabetes in our community?

According to the 2007 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, more than 23 million or 7.8 percent of people in the United States have diabetes. This means that for every 100 people, nearly 8 of them have diabetes. Approximately 1.6 million people are diagnosed with diabetes every year. A 2008 community health assessment estimated that 9 percent of York County residents and 7 percent of Adams County residents have diabetes.

Diabetes has a significant financial impact on the economy. In 2007, diabetes cost the U.S. more than $174 billion, including direct medical expenses and indirect costs. Indirect costs include increased absenteeism, reduced productivity and lost productivity due to early deaths. In Pennsylvania alone, diabetes cost more than $6.5 million in 2007 in health care and time away from work.

What can you do?

There are things that people with diabetes can do to improve their health:

  1. Having a good relationship with your doctor can help you to better understand your diabetes and lower your chances of having heart disease, stroke or other problems.
  2. Keeping your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible will help to prevent damage to your organs.
  3. Making sure you are getting regular check-ups that include the following tests:
    • Blood pressure check
    • A1C blood test
    • Cholesterol blood test
    • Eye exam
    • Blood and urine tests to see how the kidneys are working

Also, review these warning signs for Type 2 Diabetes, and the four-step action plan for managing diabetes.

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