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Diabetes: Learn Its Causes to Lower Your Risk

Do you know what causes diabetes? Type 2 diabetes affects about 9% of Americans, but in many cases, it is preventable. 

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is among the most common and harmful metabolic diseases. It affects the way the body metabolizes sugar (glucose), which is one of the body's main sources of fuel. In an individual with this disorder, the body cannot use insulin properly, causing a condition called insulin resistance. In the early phases of the disease, often referred to as prediabetes, the body compensates for insulin resistance by producing more of the hormone. However, as insulin resistance grows, the body will struggle to keep up and blood glucose will rise to dangerous levels.

What Are Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes?

Spoonful of Sugar Linked to DiabetesWhile the exact mechanics behind type 2 diabetes are not fully understood, there are many factors that are known to increase your risk of diabetes. These includes:

  • Overweight or obesity – This is a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes, since excess fatty tissue in the body has been shown to increase insulin resistance.
  • Inactivity – A sedentary lifestyle is known to contribute to diabetes development.
  • Genetics – If you have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes, or are African-American, Native American, Asian American or Hispanic, you are at higher risk for diabetes.
  • Prediabetes – Defined as having higher than normal blood glucose levels, but not yet high enough for a diabetes diagnosis, prediabetes often progresses into full blown type-2 diabetes.

How Diabetes Affects the Body

Uncontrolled diabetes causes gradual damage to many cells in the body, which can lead to a wide range of complications. Among the most serious of these are:

Screening and Prevention

Since millions of Americans have diabetes and don't know it, the first step in protecting your health is diabetes screening, especially if you have risk factors for the disorder or symptoms of diabetes, such as:

  • Unusual thirst is a symptom of diabetesUnusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Delayed healing
  • Vision changes

A variety of screening tests are used to detect diabetes, including urine and blood tests to detect current high glucose levels and more complex screening tests that measure average blood sugar levels over two to three months.

Even in people who are already in the prediabetes phase, diabetes can sometimes be prevented by changing some of those controllable risk factors. Losing as little as 5% to 7% of body weight slowed progression of diabetes in the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can also significantly reduce risk.



By Keith Kloss, Health Testing Centers