Diabetes impacts millions of Americans, with roughly 10 percent of the population suffering from type 1 or type 2. What's more concerning is that millions go undiagnosed, even though the risk factors are clear.
Normally diagnosed early in life, type 1 diabetes means that the body doesn't produce insulin and the patient must take it daily. Type 2 is usually discovered later in life, and although the body does make insulin, it doesn't regulate or produce it as well as it should. This is the type found most in American patients.
To see if you're at risk for type 2, Methodist Health System has designed an easy-to-use assessment tool. By quickly answering a few questions — it takes about seven minutes — you'll receive personalized, confidential information on your risk profile, plus next steps to take.
Factors that play into an increased risk for type 2 diabetes include:
- Age: Risk increases with age, and is most frequently seen after age 45. However, doctors are finding more and more children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes, so it's never too early to check.
- Ethnicity: Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.
- Body weight: Roughly half of men and 70 percent of women who have diabetes are obese. If you are 20 percent or more over your ideal body weight, you are at a higher than normal risk.
- Lifestyle factors: Whether or not you smoke, your activity level, and untreated high blood pressure can play into the likelihood developing type 2 diabetes.
- Family history: Type 2 diabetes runs in families, both environmentally and genetically.
The long-term effects of diabetes can be severe, so the earlier it's detected, the better. High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, causes fatigue and can also weaken the immune system.
As Dr. Michael Foster, a pulmonologist at Methodist Richardson Health Center, describes it, “... hyperglycemia is going to make the body more susceptible to vascular and cellular damage.”
The patient often exhibits other medical issues that complicate the situation, such as atherosclerosis, obesity, and hypertension. If left unchecked, diabetes can cause eye problems, dental issues, nerve damage, hearing difficulties, and much more.
Those simple seven minutes to take the test seem pretty important now, huh?