Diabetes is becoming a more common term because, unfortunately, it is projected that around 8.3 percent of the entire U.S. population has diabetes. Of the 8.3 percent, nearly seven million are unaware.
So how can we change that? We can start with education.
We sat down with Folashade Lester, M.D., a family medicine physician on the medical staff at the Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute Family Center at Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center, for a deeper look into some commonly asked questions about diabetes.
Q: Starting off, what exactly is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced.
Think about it like this: your body takes sugar from the foods you eat and turns it into energy using a hormone called insulin. When you have type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t produce enough insulin and/or doesn’t use insulin the right way. When this happens, sugar builds up in the blood, causing type 2 diabetes.
Most cases fall into three broad categories: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
There is also prediabetes, which can occur when a person has a blood glucose (sugar) level that is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.
Q: Who is at risk for diabetes?
Anyone could be at risk, especially those who are physically inactive, or have impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT).
A family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease should all be cause for precautionary testing.
According to a 2009 study from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.7 million persons aged 18 years and older in Texas have been diagnosed with diabetes. That’s nearly 10 percent of that age group.
Another estimated 440,468 persons aged 18 years and older in Texas are believed to have undiagnosed diabetes.
The risk for type 2 diabetes also increases for those aged 45 years or older and overweight.
Q: You mentioned Texans are commonly diagnosed with diabetes. How big is the problem if diabetes in North Texas?
Diabetes affects nearly 12 percent of the Dallas County population, compared to 10 percent in Texas and 8 percent nationally. The zip code with the highest number of diabetes patients seen in Dallas County hospitals is in zip code 75227 (Southern Dallas).
Q: How would someone know if they might have diabetes? What should they do if they are experiencing some symptoms?
Symptoms of diabetes can include increased thirst, hunger or urination, as well as fatigue, weight loss, blurred vision and sores that don’t heal on their own.
Many people do not find out they have type 2 diabetes until they have complications, such as blurry vision or heart trouble. If you find out early that you have diabetes, you can get treatment to prevent damage to your body.
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, see your health care provider immediately.
It’s important to find reliable information when seeking information about diabetes. We recommend visiting the Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute, the National Diabetes Education Program and the American Diabetes Association for the most up-to-date information.
Interested in raising awareness of diabetes in North Texas? Join our celebrity guest, Daytime Emmy Award-winner, Sherri Shepherd and others at the DHWI Healthy Harvest Fun Walk/5K Run and Diabetes Expo on Saturday, October 26, 2013.