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OMH Observes American Diabetes Month

Did you know, there are 20.8 million people in the United States who have diabetes, yet 6.2 million are unaware that they have the disease?

Did you know, there are 20.8 million people in the United States who have diabetes, yet 6.2 million are unaware that they have the disease?

Nearly 10 percent of people ages 20 and older have diabetes, and more than 20 percent of people ages 60 and older have diabetes. Some 1.5 million new cases were diagnosed in 2005.

Diabetes, the Silent Killer

Many people do not become aware that they have the disease until they develop one of the life-threatening complications associated with diabetes: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system disease, amputation, dental disease, and complications during pregnancy. If you are African American, Mexican American, a resident of Puerto Rico, American Indian, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian, you have a higher risk of developing the disease than non-Hispanic whites. Statewide data for Hawaii and California also show higher than average risk for diabetes among Asians and Pacific Islanders. Diabetes is the fifth deadliest disease in the United States, and it has no cure.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. People with diabetes have problems converting food to energy. After a meal, food is broken down into a sugar called glucose, which is carried by the blood to cells throughout the body. Cells use the hormone insulin, made in the pancreas, to help them process blood glucose into energy.

Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is usually first diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults. Type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset diabetes or noninsulin-dependent diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes. People can develop type 2 diabetes at any age-even during childhood. Some women develop gestational diabetes during the late stages of pregnancy.

People develop type 2 diabetes because the cells in the muscles, liver, and fat do not use insulin properly. Eventually, the pancreas cannot make enough insulin for the body's needs. As a result, the amount of glucose in the blood increases while the cells are starved of energy. Over the years, high blood glucose damages nerves and blood vessels, leading to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve problems, gum infections, and amputation.

Another type of diabetes - gestational diabetes - is a form of glucose intolerance diagnosed in some women during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes occurs more frequently among African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and American Indians. It is also more common among obese women and women with a family history of diabetes. During pregnancy, gestational diabetes requires treatment to normalize maternal blood glucose levels to avoid complications in the infant. After pregnancy, 5% to 10% of women with gestational diabetes are found to have type 2 diabetes. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 20% to 50% chance of developing diabetes in the next 5-10 years.


Before people have Type 2 diabetes, they normally have "pre-diabetes," or blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. There are 41 million people in the U.S. ages 40 to 74 who have "pre-diabetes." Small steps can yield big rewards when it comes to prevention. People with pre-diabetes who make healthy food choices and exercise more can delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. NIH's Diabetes Prevention Program found that a modest amount of weight loss (5-7%) though diet and exercise led to significant reductions in diabetes, and proved effective for all high-risk groups participating in the study. That's just 10 to 15 pounds for a 200-pound individual.

There are two different tests your doctor can use to determine whether you have pre-diabetes: the fasting plasma glucose test (FPG) or the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The blood glucose levels measured after these tests determine whether you have a normal metabolism, or whether you have pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Are you at risk? Take the American Diabetes Association's Risk Test Exit Disclaimer

Tips on Staying Healthy

Many people can manage their diabetes and avoid long-term problems by taking good care of themselves. Work with your health care team, friends, and family to make healthy lifestyle choices. Here are some tips to help you manage your diabetes and stay healthy:

  • Manage your A1C (blood glucose or sugar), Blood pressure, and Cholesterol. This will help lower your chances of having a heart attack, a stroke, or other diabetes problems. These are called the ABCs of diabetes.

    A is for the A1C test.
    It shows how well your blood glucose has been controlled over the last 3 months. It should be checked at least twice a year. The goal for most people is less than 7.

    High blood glucose levels can harm your kidneys, feet, and eyes.

    B is for blood pressure.
    The goal for most people is 130/80.

    High blood pressure makes your heart work too hard. It can cause heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. C is for cholesterol.
    The LDL goal for most people is less than 100.

    Bad cholesterol, or LDL, can build up and clog your blood vessels. It can cause a heart attack or a stroke.

  • Follow your diabetes food plan. If you do not have one, ask your health care team about it.

  • Eat the right portions of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables (5 to 9 servings a day), fish, lean meats, dry beans, whole grains, and low-fat or skim milk and cheese.

  • Eat foods that have less salt and fat.

  • Get 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days of the week.

  • Stay at a healthy weight - by being active and eating the right amounts of healthy foods.

  • Stop smoking - seek help to quit.

  • Take medicines the way your doctor tells you. Ask if you need aspirin to prevent heart attack or stroke.

  • Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, red spots, and swelling. Call your health care team right away about any sores that won't heal.

  • Brush your teeth and floss every day to avoid problems with your mouth, teeth, or gums.

  • Check your blood glucose the way your doctor tells you to.

If you or someone you know needs information about diabetes contact:

Need information specifically related to diabetes and minorities?

Contact the Office of Minority Health Resource Center
or 1-800-444-6472

OMH Diabetes Data/Statistics

Searchable Web Sites

National Diabetes Education Program
The National Diabetes Education Program is a federally-sponsored initiative that involves public and private partners to improve the treatment and outcomes for people with diabetes, to promote early diagnosis, and to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. For a complete list of campaign materials, go to:

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) is the Government's lead agency for diabetes research. The NIDDK operates three information clearinghouses of potential interest to people seeking diabetes information and funds six Diabetes Research and Training Centers and eight Diabetes Endocrinology Research Centers

American Diabetes Association Exit Disclaimer
The American Diabetes Association is a national nonprofit health organization providing diabetes research, information and advocacy. For more information on American Diabetes Month and population specific diabetes information, visit American Diabetes Month and
African Americans and Diabetes Exit Disclaimer
American Indians/ Alaska Natives and Diabetes Exit Disclaimer
Asian Americans and Diabetes Exit Disclaimer
Latinos and Diabetes Exit Disclaimer

Content Last Modified: 12/28/2006 4:00:00 PM
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