In the U.S., 10.5% of the population has diabetes. That’s approximately 34.2 million people. Only about 5.2% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes (about 1.6 million people) are for type 1 diabetes. That means the majority have type 2 diabetes, which can be prevented or delayed.
Type 1 vs. type 2
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that usually develops quickly, most often in children or teenagers but can be diagnosed in early adulthood. Our bodies take the carbohydrates we eat and break them down into sugar (or glucose). This glucose is stored in our blood until it can be moved out to our cells, which use it as energy. Insulin is the hormone that passes glucose along to the cells. When a person has type 1 diabetes, their body doesn’t produce insulin. This causes glucose to build up in the blood (known as high blood sugar). High blood sugar can lead to some serious health complications if left untreated.
There is no exact cause known for type 1 diabetes, but it may be tied to genetics. And while there is no cure, it can be managed through medication and other treatment programs.
You can develop type 2 diabetes at any time in your life. With type 2 diabetes, your body’s cells don’t respond to the insulin being produced or you don’t make enough insulin, leading to high blood sugar. Left untreated, type 2 diabetes can lead to further health complications like heart disease, kidney disease, and vision loss. But it can be managed through weight loss, a healthy diet, exercise, and medicine.
Know the signs
It’s estimated that more than 7 million people have diabetes but haven’t been diagnosed. Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Extreme hunger
- Increased thirst
- Blurred vision
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections
Call your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms. Make sure you always get an annual checkup so your doctor can test your blood sugar levels.
Prediabetes, and how to help prevent type 2
Some people may have blood sugar that is higher than normal, but not yet in the range to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This condition is called prediabetes. Around 88 million American adults have it (that’s more than one in every three people), and over 84% of those people don’t know they have it. Think of it as a warning step, where you can still make lifestyle changes to help prevent yourself from being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or at least delay the onset.
It is possible to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Try making healthier eating choices with less added sugar, more fiber and lean protein, and heart-healthy fat. Consistently get adequate sleep (about seven to nine hours each night) and at least 150 minutes of brisk walking or similar physical activity every week. Losing just 5%-7% of your bodyweight can help decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes. Note: Always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
ConnectiCare members can work with our Care Management team to help keep their diabetes or prediabetes in check. Call Member Services at 1-800-251-7722 (TTY: 711) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.