Learn the Life-Threatening Health Risks Caused by Diabetes

Diabetes Health Risks

Currently in the United States, there are 21 million American adults diagnosed with diabetes. 


There are 86 million adults who have prediabetes and out of that 86 million, 9 out of 10 do not know that they have prediabetes. 


The risk of death for those who have diabetes is 50 percent higher than an individual without diabetes.


At present, there are over eight million Americans who have diabetes that are currently undiagnosed. Could it be you?

In Iowa, 8.3 out of every 100 people have diabetes, and in Illinois, it’s 9.2 out of every 100. That may not seem like a lot, but let’s put it into perspective. If you work for a company with over 100 employees, at least eight or nine of your co-workers have diabetes.

What is type 2 diabetes and what can be done to prevent this life-threatening condition? With Diabetes Alert Day approaching, let’s take a moment to learn more about this disease and how it can affect your health.


Type 2 Diabetes: What Is It? 

Diabetes refers to a problem with your body that causes blood glucose to rise to higher levels than it should. There are two forms of diabetes, type 1 and type 2, of which the latter is the most common form.

Type 2 diabetes affects the way a person’s body metabolizes sugar and resists the effects of insulin. On the other hand, the body may not produce sufficient amounts of insulin to maintain proper glucose levels.


What is glucose and what purpose does it serve in your body? Glucose is sugar and an important energy source for cells and organs in the body. The way we receive glucose is through the foods we eat and mostly comes from carbohydrates, like fruits, bread and cereal. The glucose is then broken down in a person’s stomach and absorbed into the bloodstream. So what are normal and high levels of blood sugar?

Blood Sugar Levels 

Blood sugar levels change throughout the day and night and greatly depend on whether you’ve exercised and what or when you’ve eaten. To better understand blood sugar levels, it’s important to know how sugars are measured, which is mg/dL. When a person has not eaten for eight hours, normal blood sugar levels are between 70 and 99 mg/dL. Blood sugar levels two hours after eating should be below 140 mg/dL. This chart from the Joslin Diabetes Center breaks down healthy blood sugar levels for those with and without diabetes.

High blood sugar levels, otherwise called hyperglycemia, are considered to be high when levels are around 160 mg/dL. When does high blood sugar happen? It happens when the body does not have enough insulin, or the body is unable to use it properly. If blood sugar levels are high for an extended period of time, this can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s health, both short and long-term. Long-term risks include kidney disease, heart disease, heart attacks and stroke to name only a few.

There are signs of high blood glucose levels that a person may notice. Signs include:

  • Increased thirst, leading to increased urination
  • Dry mouth or skin
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Infections
  • Slow healing of cuts
  • Unintended weight loss

Symptoms of Diabetes 

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes 

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly over time. Scarily enough, a person could have type 2 diabetes for years and be completely unaware. Diabetes develops when a person’s body has developed a resistance to insulin or when the pancreas can’t produce sufficient amounts of insulin to supply the body.

In type 2 diabetes, the process by which sugar is distributed into the cells does not work well. Instead of being absorbed by the cells, the sugars build up in the blood stream. When blood sugar levels rise, insulin-producing cells can’t make enough insulin to meet the body’s requirements.

Symptoms of Prediabetes

What is the difference between prediabetes and diabetes? If a person has prediabetes, their blood sugar levels are high, but not yet to the point where levels classify as type 2 diabetes. If there is not any intervention, prediabetes will likely develop into diabetes in less than ten years.

More often than not, prediabetes does not show any symptoms. However, there are red flags that indicate if prediabetes has developed into type 2 diabetes. Those include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue

Understand Your Diabetes Risk 

Do you know the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes? Risk factors include:

  • Weight
  • Physical inactivity
  • Age
  • Family history
  • Fat distribution
  • Gestational diabetes

It can be easy to ignore the warning signs of type 2 diabetes, but diabetes can have adverse health effects on your major organs. These conditions develop gradually, but can be life-threatening. Potential complications include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Eye damage
  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • Hearing impairment
  • Foot damage
  • Skin conditions
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes 

There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but there are ways to manage the disease. Managing diabetes includes eating a well-balanced diet, exercising, blood sugar monitoring and possibly medications or insulin therapy.

  • Eating. Contrary to popular belief, there is no “diabetic diet”. A diabetic’s diet should, however, center around foods high in fiber and low in fat. Also, foods that are low on the glycemic index will help maintain blood sugar levels.
  • Physical activity. A person with type 2 diabetes needs at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week. It’s important to check blood sugar levels before exercising, as physical activity will lower blood sugar. 
  • Monitoring blood sugar. Depending on the treatment plan developed by a provider, it may be necessary to check and record blood sugar levels periodically. If an individual is on insulin, blood sugar levels should be checked several times a day. Monitoring blood sugar levels carefully is the only way to ensure that blood sugar is staying within a target range.
  • Medication and insulin therapy. Some individuals with type 2 diabetes may require medication or insulin therapy. There are multiple factors that go into deciding which medication will work best and if a combination of medications will be required. Insulin therapy is insulin that an individual must inject themselves with to maintain their blood sugar levels. 

Reduce Your Diabetes Risk with UnityPoint Health

At UnityPoint Health, our patients are our priority. That’s why we have Patient-Centered Medical Home as our primary care model. No matter if it’s taking steps to prevent diabetes or to manage current conditions, the providers at UnityPoint Health are there to help you at each stage of life. Make sure your health is on track by visiting a primary care provider today!

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