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Norma L. Molina, Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist
American Diabetes Association

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You have probably heard about the epidemic of Diabetes Type 2 (Diabetes T2) affecting adults, and now children. But you probably haven’t heard everything. It’s important that you know all you can about diabetes, because you may have it and not know it.

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Based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death. In 2011, there were nearly 26 million people of all ages with diabetes; 79 million adults ages 20 years and older had pre-diabetes; and 7 million were undiagnosed. From 2005-2009, 36% of Mexican-American adults had pre-diabetes and 12% of all Latinos had diagnosed diabetes.

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Closer to home, in the Santa Clara County, 2009, 11% of Latinos were diagnosed with diabetes (1 out of 10). The diabetes statistics are alarming, and continue to increase rapidly, especially among Latino adults and children!

Diabetes T2 is when the pancreas gradually produces less insulin and the insulin produced isn’t as effective in decreasing blood glucose (sugar) levels as before. In pre-diabetes, blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes, and those with pre-diabetes have a greater risk of developing diabetes. Only a fasting blood sugar test and/or an A1C test can check your blood glucose level to diagnose diabetes.

Diabetes T2 can often go undiagnosed because the symptoms may seem harmless. You may have 2 or more symptoms of diabetes that should alert you to be tested as soon as possible. The symptoms include: 1) excessive thirst, 2) frequent urination, 3) extreme hunger, 4) unusual weight loss without trying, 5) extremely tired and irritable, 6) frequent infections skin, gums, vaginal, or bladder], 7) blurred vision, 8) wounds that slowly heal, 9) tingling/numbness in the hands and feet.

Be aware that sometimes there may not be any symptoms, but if you are over the age of 45 years or older, are overweight/obese, not physically active, have a strong family history of diabetes, are of a certain ethnic group (Latino, Asian, Black, or Native American), have high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure, had diabetes during pregnancy, or have unusual darkness of your skin around your neck, underarms, inner thighs, waist, and/or knuckles of your hands, it is important that you have a blood glucose test.

The more you know about the complications of diabetes, the more likely you will be motivated to prevent diabetes. The complications greatly affect your quality of life, in addition to your overall health. The following are some of the complications that diabetics over time may develop: 1) Heart Disease – diabetics have a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes, 2) Eye Complications – diabetics have a higher risk of blindness and other vision problems, 3) Kidney Disease – diabetes can cause kidney damage that may lead to kidney failure, 4) Nerve Damage (neuropathy) – high sugar levels can damage the nerves that run through the body, 5) Foot Problems – diabetics can have nerve damage, infections of the feet, and blood flow problems to the feet that may lead to amputations, 6) Skin Complications – they develop skin problems, such as infections, sores, and itching. Skin problems are sometimes a first sign that someone has diabetes, 7) Dental Disease –diabetics have problems with their teeth and gums. Early detection of diabetes symptoms and treatment can decrease the chance of developing the complications of diabetes, because constant high blood sugar levels for 5 years or more increases the rate of damage to the body. What is frightening is that so many people with undiagnosed diabetes for 5 years or more already have complications on the day of their diagnosis!

The development of diabetes can be prevented through healthy lifestyle habits. The younger you are the more critical it is to start making healthy changes now, and maintain those changes throughout your life.

To learn more about diabetes and have your blood sugar and blood pressure checked free, attend the American Diabetes Association’s 4th annual Diabetes Forum on November 4, 2012, at the Roosevelt Community Center in San Jose, from 10am to 2pm. For more information about this,  call (408) 476-2104.

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