Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Diabetes – Part 1: Know Your Risks

Diabetes is a condition in which there is too much sugar (glucose) in the blood. In you have type 2 diabetes, the body either does not produce enough insulin or the insulin produced does not clear the sugar from your blood. Too much sugar in your blood could lead to numerous health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Knowing your risk can help you to make smart food and lifestyle choices to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

Know Your Risk for Diabetes 
How likely are you to develop diabetes? There are certain conditions, called risk factors, that tend to predict the likelihood of your developing diabetes. If you have any of these risk factors, your chances of developing type 2 diabetes are greater than someone who does not have any of those risk factors.

Here are some common risk factors for diabetes:
  • Family history of diabetes/genetics
  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Lack of exercise
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Race/ Ethnicity: Being African American, Hispanic American, Hawaiian or Native American

Tests for Type 2 Diabetes
If your doctor suspects that you might have diabetes or that you might be at risk, he will order a blood test. Initial blood glucose testing is fairly simple. A blood sample is taken and tested to determine the amount of glucose in your blood.

Fasting blood glucose. To take a fasting blood glucose test, your doctor will ask you not to eat anything for at least 8 hours before the blood test is scheduled. A blood sample is then taken and checked for glucose. A normal fasting blood glucose level is 70 to 99 mg/dL.

If your test comes back at 100 to 125 mg/dL, you are considered to be pre-diabetic. It means that your body is not handling the sugar efficiently.

Above 125 mg/dL you are likely to be diagnosed as having diabetes.

Oral glucose tolerance test. Another test for diabetes is the oral glucose tolerance test. This test is done after you have fasted for at least 8 hours. After the 8-hour fast you are given a sugar (glucose)-containing drink. Your blood is tested for glucose two hours after you have had the drink.

If your blood glucose level is less than 140 mg/dL, your blood glucose is considered to be normal.

If your test shows that your glucose level of 140 to 199 suggests that you may have pre-diabetes.

If your blood glucose level is 200 mg/dL or greater, you will most likely be considered to be diagnosed with diabetes. A repeat test should be done to confirm the diagnosis.

Gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs in many women during pregnancy. This test is a part of the standard care for pregnant women. The blood sugar levels needed to render a diagnosis of gestational diabetes are a little different from those used for non-pregnant women.

If you are at risk for diabetes, it does not mean that you will absolutely develop diabetes. It just means that you have a greater chance than someone who does not have any of those risk factors. Get tested and talk to your doctor and a registered dietitian about steps you can take prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.