Medical Moment: Understanding symptoms of diabetes

Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 7:52 PM EST
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The World Health Organization expects diabetes to be the seventh-leading cause of death worldwide by 2030, and that one in five Americans will have diabetes by 2050.

But how can you tell if you may be at risk for diabetes? And if you are, what do you need to know?

Every 17 seconds, an American is diagnosed with diabetes. And 79,000 die a year from complications.

There’s so much confusing information out there, what should you believe?

True or false: if you don’t have symptoms of diabetes you don’t have to worry… False! The CDC reports that more than 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and one in five don’t know they do.

“Even with type two diabetes, sometimes people are not symptomatic until blood sugar levels are very high,” says Alison Massey, registered dietician.

Next question: if you’re older, you’re more at risk for developing diabetes?

“You can actually develop prediabetes at any age,” Massey says.

Type one is most often developed at a younger age, while type two is mostly diagnosed in middle-aged and older people. But that’s not always the case.

“I’ve had type one diabetes for 17 years,” says Kathy Gagnier. “I got it a little bit late in life at age 46.”

Next question: if you have type two diabetes, do you need insulin? Most people don’t.

Many can control their diabetes through diet and exercise, oral medication, or a combination of both. The CDC states that only 40 percent of those with type two use insulin.

Last question, true or false: can too much sugar cause diabetes? False! Sugar does not cause diabetes but being overweight is a major risk factor. Fat has twice as many calories as sugar, according to the American Diabetes Association. However, when you have craving for a sweet, focus on foods with naturally occurring sugar.

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