Diabetes is a serious illness that can occur in people of all ages, with the risk increasing with age. Diabetes affects many Americans, especially African Americans. A recent study found that biological risk factors—including weight, fat around the abdomen, and other hereditary factors are largely responsible for higher rates of diabetes among African Americans as compared with non-Hispanic Whites. (Citation)
Diabetes affects how your body uses glucose or blood sugar. Glucose is essential to our health because it's an important source of energy for the cells that make up our muscles and tissues. It is also the brain's main source of fuel. Insulin, a hormone which is made by the pancreas, helps glucose get into our cells to be used for energy. For people with diabetes, their bodies either do not produce insulin (called Type 1 diabetes), or their bodies do not make enough insulin or use insulin in the right way (called Type 2 diabetes). Too much glucose then stays in your blood, and not enough reaches your cells. Over time, too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems, such as heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, pain in the body’s extremities, or circulation problems that lead to feet or leg amputations. Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. People with prediabetes usually have no symptoms, yet they’re at risk for eventually developing Type 2 diabetes, and the associated complications like heart disease and stroke.
The good news is that prediabetes can be prevented. Also, people who have prediabetes can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes. Some medications may help, but it is essential to make long-term lifestyle changes, such as losing excess weight, eating a healthy diet (choose foods that are low in fat and calories and high in fiber, focusing on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and exercising at least 30 minutes per day. In fact, the same study that found that Black Americans have higher rates of diabetes also confirmed that making these positive lifestyle changes that help minimize known risk factors can help reduce the likelihood for developing diabetes.
Screening for prediabetes is a good way to care for your health. It’s quick and easy. Don’t wait to become sick. Early detection is the best way to avoid health problems and stay healthy. Whether you do it for yourself or for the ones you love, get screened. You’re worth it. Now, take the first step. Find out your risk for prediabetes.
Your mental health also affects your risk for prediabetes and ability to make healthy lifestyle choices. When you’ve finished the Prediabetes section, be sure to complete the Emotional Well-Being section.