It’s National Diabetes Awareness Month!


According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 34 million people have diabetes in the United States, out of which about 7 million are undiagnosed. The percentage of people 65 and older with diabetes is quite high at 27% and 1.5 million people are diagnosed with diabetes every year. About 210,000 Americans under age 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes, approximately 0.25% of that population.

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic illnesses that people develop and therefore the most important thing to do is to determine your own risk and get tested if appropriate. A few things to start thinking about are:

1.        What is diabetes?

2.        Am I at risk for diabetes?

3.        What can I do to prevent this condition?

4.        How can I be tested for diabetes?

“There are many different types of diabetes, but the most common types are type 1 and type 2 diabetes.” explains Dr. Purvi Parikh, Endocrinologist with Hannibal Regional Medical Group. “In type 1 diabetes mellitus, the problem is that the pancreas (an organ in the abdomen) does not make enough insulin early on and eventually makes no insulin. In type 2 Diabetes mellitus, the pancreas does not make enough insulin and the body becomes resistant to normal and/or even high levels of insulin.”

Some environmental factors that contribute to your risk of diabetes are physical inactivity, high caloric foods consumption, as well as genetic factors. Some symptoms of diabetes are: needing to urinate frequently, increased thirst, increased hunger, dry mouth, fatigue, headaches, tingling/numbness in toes/feet, blurred vision to name a few.  It is also important to note, however, that many people with type 2 diabetes may have no symptoms at all.

“Lifestyle interventions can help prevent type 2 diabetes in some cases. These lifestyle changes might include losing weight, following a healthy diet, and engaging in regular exercise,” says Dr. Parikh.  Some lifestyle changes that can help reduce your chance of developing type 2 diabetes are to have at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week, pay attention to portion sizes, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and cut back on refined sugars and carbohydrates.

“People with risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as excess body weight or a family history of the condition, should visit with a doctor about how to minimize their risk of developing the disease.  Your doctor can assess your individual risk and make personalized suggestions on how to lessen the chance of developing diabetes or manage your condition,” says Dr. Parikh.

Screenings and timely diagnosis and treatment help prevent more serious complications of this disease. Chronic hyperglycemia (chronic high blood sugars) causes long-term damage of eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, or blood vessels, stroke, coronary heart disease, and peripheral vascular disease. You should get tested for diabetes if you have any of the symptoms listed above, are overweight, over the age of 45, have a family history of diabetes, have a history of gestational (pregnancy-related) diabetes, and/or have a history of polycystic ovarian disease. 

If you believe you are at risk for diabetes, call 573-629-3500 to get tested by your primary care provider.  A simple blood test can help determine if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes and appropriate, timely intervention-lifestyle change and/or meds can help treat/prevent this condition.