Diabetes: Know the Signs

Identify risk factors and recognize symptoms of this common disease

woman looking concernedDiabetes is a major risk factor for both heart disease and stroke. (A risk factor is a condition or habit that makes a person more likely to develop a disease or make a disease worse. Some risk factors you can control, others you can't.) At particular risk are the nearly one-third of women with diabetes who do not know they have it.

Diabetes is a chronic condition. A person with diabetes produces too little insulin or cannot use the insulin they do produce efficiently. (Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use digested food for growth and energy.) Type 2 diabetes is the form that most commonly develops in adulthood.

Who is at risk of developing diabetes?

The chance of developing Type 2 diabetes rises if you are:

  • Over the age of 45
  • Overweight, especially if you are carrying the weight around your waist or abdomen
  • Physically inactive
  • Blood pressure over 140/90
  • Cholesterol levels are not normal. HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) is 35 or lower. Triglyceride level is 250 or higher.
  • Have a family history of diabetes (parent, brother or sister with diabetes)
  • Had diabetes during pregnancy or gave birth to a baby weight more than 9 pounds.

Diabetes is also more common among Hispanic, American Indian, African American, Asian American and Pacific Island women.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes appear gradually and can be vague. They include:

  • Feeling tired or ill
  • Frequent urination (especially at night)
  • Unusual thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Sores that heal slowly

Anyone with these risk factors or symptoms should contact their health care professional immediately. Type 2 Diabetes can have serious complications in addition to increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke. That is why it is critically important, too, that if you are diagnosed with diabetes you control your blood sugar.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

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