It’s World Diabetes Day. Have You Been Tested Recently?

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Carol Browne

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Carol Browne

November 14th is World Diabetes Day,* created to spread awareness of type 2 diabetes and to bring attention to promising medical advancements that can help people avoid or manage the disease.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease, and its prevalence is growing around the world. Hundreds of millions of people have the condition, and what’s worse, nearly half of them have no idea. The damage the disease does to the body puts these people at risk of developing a number of other serious issues like cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, blindness, and loss of limbs.

In the US, more than 5,000 people per day learn that that they have this life-threatening, life-long disease. But fortunately, like many diseases, it doesn’t happen overnight. Early detection and lifestyle changes often allow people to bring their blood glucose levels back into the normal range before permanent effects settle in.

Understanding Prediabetes

Before developing type 2 diabetes, many people spend time in a state of prediabetes. This is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but haven’t yet crossed the diabetic threshold. A fasting glucose of 100-125 mg/dL means you have prediabetes; anything higher than 126 mg/dL is classified as the real thing. Prediabetes increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Diabetes: Early Detection

To find out where you stand, you can order tests for glucose and another marker called hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). Measuring glucose is the most basic and straightforward test that gives an idea of where you stand. By knowing your blood sugar levels (especially fasting glucose), you can tell if you’re diabetic, prediabetic, or in the clear.

As for HbA1c, your doctor probably won’t offer this test unless you’ve already been diagnosed as diabetic. But this test is useful as a diagnostic tool as well, because it provides a good picture of your blood sugar levels over a three-month period. Glucose combines with hemoglobin to make HbA1c, so the more glucose there is in the blood, the more HbA1c is formed. HbA1c, which is found in red blood cells, tells us the average amount of glucose that the blood cells have picked up over their 8-12 week lifespan. For a single blood test, this can provide a more reliable reading than glucose and can help track progress with future testing.

Preventative Measures For Diabetes

If you are found to be prediabetic, it’s important to consult with a physician or dietitian, so that you can take the necessary steps to prevent future health complications. Research shows that you can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by nearly 60% through lifestyle changes alone:

  • Reducing your weight by 7%
  • Doing moderate exercise (like brisk walking or other low-impact aerobic activity) for 30 minutes a day, five days a week

For more information

To add even more dimension to your metabolic profile, you can test insulin and insulin-like factor 1 (IGF-1), both of which are low in people with diabetes.

Find out more about World Diabetes Day at the International Diabetes Federation website, where they will be focusing on ways to spread disease awareness for the rest of November.

—————

*This date was chosen because it’s the birthday of Nobel Prize winner Sir Fredrick G. Banting, the doctor who discovered insulin. In 1921, Dr. Banting succeeded where others failed, engineering a way to extract insulin from the pancreas without it being destroyed by pancreatic enzymes. This created a form that could be injected into diabetic patients to regulate their sugar metabolism.

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.