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Diabetes: Learn Its Causes to Lower Your Risk

Do you know what causes diabetes? If not you should, since the incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing at epidemic rates and the disease is, in many cases, preventable. According to a report released by the CDC in November, 2012, rates of diabetes mellitus rose exponentially between 1995 and 2010. During the 15 year period, rates doubled in 18 states. While only three states had rates of diabetes exceeding 6 percent in 1995, all 50 did by 2010, and in six states and Puerto Rico, one of every 10 adults has the disease. Additionally, CDC estimates suggest that of the 25.8 million people with diabetes in 2011, 7.0 million were undiagnosed and unaware that they had the disease.

Percentage of Americans with Diabetes

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 the body's main source of fuel. In an individual with this disorder, the body cannot use insulin properly, which is the hormone that regulates glucose absorption by the cells, 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 Causes Diabetes?

Spoonful of Sugar Linked to DiabetesWhile it is known that this disorder develops as the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin or the pancreas stops producing adequate amounts of the hormone, the exact reason these things occur is unknown, so medical science has no definitive answer, as of yet, to the question of what causes diabetes. However, there are many factors that are known to increase your risk of diabetes, such as:

  • 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. That risk is further increased if excess body fat is concentrated in the abdominal region.
  • 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 virtually all 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 if your screening tests show you're already in the prediabetes phase, diabetes can be prevented by changing some of those controllable risk factors. Losing as little as 15-20 pounds can dramatically decrease risk, as can 30 minutes of exercise daily. A healthy diet can also significantly reduce risk, so stay away from fatty, sugary and highly-processed foods, replacing them with whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and lots of colorful fruits and vegetables.



By Keith Kloss, Health Testing Centers