November is National Diabetes Month, and this year’s focus is on the connection between diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
According to the National Institute of Health, adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes. That might be a scary shift in odds if you have diabetes or prediabetes.
The problem is that over time, the high blood sugar or glucose associated with diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart. This damage also impacts your body’s ability to heal.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common conditions that are linked to diabetes include: diabetic eye disease (retinopathy), the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults in the U.S.; diabetic kidney disease (nephropathy), the leading cause of severe kidney failure necessitating dialysis or transplantation in working-age adults in the U.S.; and nerve damage (neuropathy), which is present in about one out of three people with diabetes at the time of diagnosis and skyrockets to more than seven out of 10 by the time they’ve been diabetic for 10 years.
These factors may influence your risk for diabetes:
Body weight – There’s a common myth that you must be overweight to develop Type 2 diabetes. People at their ideal body weight can also be at risk; however, carrying extra body weight puts you at an increased risk. Fat distribution – Abdominal “belly” fat increases your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. A general rule of thumb is that if your waist circumference is above 40 inches for a man or 35 inches for a woman, you have an increased risk. Race – If you’re African American, Hispanic, Native American or Asian American, you’re at greater risk than those of Caucasian descent. Age – As you get older, you’re also at greater risk. However, Type 2 diabetes is alarmingly becoming more prevalent in children, adolescents and young adults. Family history – The risk of Type 2 diabetes increases if your parent or sibling has the metabolic disorder. Gestational diabetes – If you developed gestational diabetes while pregnant or gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds, your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increases. If you fall into one or more of the categories above, it’s important to monitor your blood sugar and improve your chances of catching diabetes early.
Diabetes is usually diagnosed from a finger-stick blood test called Hemoglobin A1C. You can get it from your local pharmacy or by working with your medical practitioner.
The test measures the amount of hemoglobin with glucose attached. The more attached glucose, the higher the number on the test. The American Diabetes Association provides these general guidelines for A1C levels: below 5.7% is considered normal, between 5.7% and 6.4% is considered prediabetes and 6.5% or higher on two separate tests indicates Type 2 diabetes.
Are you at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes? Knowing your risk along with your Hemoglobin A1C blood measurement allows you to take an active stance against developing Type 2 diabetes. It’s much easier to prevent this disease than to live with it. However, don’t lose hope if you’re living with it – a healthy lifestyle can have a huge impact on your health and how you feel.
Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield and offers virtual-coaching options. She can be reached at 444-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.