Reduce your risk of developing diabetes


Approximately 100 million Americans are prediabetic or diabetic. One in three people has prediabetes and is at high risk for developing diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form, accounting for 95% of all adult diagnosed cases of diabetes. Although the risk is higher if you are older, overweight or have a family history of diabetes, it can develop at any age or in any stage of life.

Prediabetes means that your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes can lead to diabetes which increases risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and loss of extremities. Some women get gestational diabetes while pregnant, which can increase the risk for developing diabetes even if blood sugar levels go down after pregnancy.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that opens the door to let blood sugar into cells to be used for energy. With prediabetes, the cells in your body do not respond to insulin as they should. In an effort to get the cells to respond, the pancreas continues to make more insulin. Eventually, the pancreas can't keep up and blood sugar rises.

Individuals with prediabetes who do not take steps to reverse or slow the onset of diabetes could develop diabetes within five years. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being overweight, 45 years or older, having a parent or sibling who has type 2 diabetes, not being physically active, has or has had gestational diabetes. Symptoms include blurry vision, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, dry skin, sores that take a long time to heal, unexplained weight loss, feeling thirsty and hungry, and urinating often, especially at night.

The Centers for Disease Control says it is possible to prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes with lifestyle and behavior changes. If you are overweight, losing as little as 5-7% of your body weight and getting regular physical activity can reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

According to Harvard Health, there are many studies that have documented the effectiveness of exercise in treating diabetes: All forms of exercise have been shown to lower blood glucose; a combination of resistance training and aerobic exercise is better at lowering insulin resistance than either alone; individuals with diabetes who walked for at least two hours a week were less likely to die of heart disease than those who are sedentary; women with diabetes who engage in moderate to vigorous exercise showed a 40% lower risk of developing heart disease than those who didn't.

Symptoms often develop over several years and can easily go unnoticed. It's important to talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any risk factors or symptoms.

Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at or (803) 773-1404.