Diabetes is a serious medical condition that deserves your attention. It is a “silent killer” because many people are not even aware that they already have it. In a vast majority of cases, a person might feel fine and hardly notice any symptoms, for now.
It is important for you to know the different risks that can lead to diabetes. With the focus on education and prevention, you may be able to fend off this illness. The following are the diabetes health risks you most likely don’t know.
1. High blood pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) – is having a reading of over 140/90 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). The blood pressure is taken by using a sphygmomanometer or blood pressure monitor. People who are hypertensive have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Around 25 percent of people living with type 1 diabetes and 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes also have high blood pressure. If you have these two illnesses at the same time, the health consequences are greater.
Having a high blood pressure means blood is pumping to the heart and blood vessels with excessive force. If left unchecked for a long period, it can lead to heart enlargement.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the combination of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure can greatly increase the chance of having a stroke or heart attack. It can also lead to kidney damage and loss of vision.
2. Abnormal cholesterol levels
Blood cholesterol refers to a group of fats (also known as lipoproteins) that includes HDL (high-density lipoproteins) or good cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoproteins) or bad cholesterol. Another type of fat is the triglyceride – the most common type of fat in the body.
What is the connection between cholesterol levels and diabetes? If a person has low levels of HDL or good cholesterol, the risk of having type 2 diabetes is higher. A raised LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglyceride can also increase the risk.
Diabetic dyslipidemia is the decrease in good cholesterol levels and the increase in bad cholesterol levels and triglyceride. It can lead to atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
3. If you are a female with polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition wherein there is an imbalance in the levels of progesterone and estrogen. This medical condition can lead to the formation of ovarian cysts. It can also disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle and cause fertility problems.
It is believed that between five to ten percent of women of childbearing age have PCOS. In the United States, the number of women affected is about 5 million.
The cause of PCOS is still unknown, although doctors believe that genetics play a role. If your mother has it, you have an increased chance of developing the condition too.
Another possible cause is the overproduction of the male hormone androgen (yes, females also have it). Women who are afflicted with the disease produce excessive amounts of androgen in their bodies.
The most noticeable symptom of PCOS is irregular menstrual period. A female with PCOS also has swollen ovaries. The decline in production of female sex hormones and the increased production of androgen can also lead to the appearance of male characteristics. These include facial hair, deep voice, and reduction in breast size.
The possible complications of polycystic ovarian syndrome are:
• heart attack
• high blood pressure
• high cholesterol
• endometrial cancer
• breast cancer
Although there are no specific tests for PCOS, a physician can diagnose the condition by ordering blood tests, conducting a physical examination, and studying your medical history. A fasting blood glucose test may also be performed to determine the blood sugar level. Other tests include thyroid function tests and lipid level tests.
There is no specific treatment to cure PCOS. Instead, the treatment is focused on the prevention of complications. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are strongly recommended. These measures will help lower blood sugar levels.
4. Your race/ethnicity
For reasons not yet fully understood, it seems that your race or ethnicity can affect your chances of acquiring diabetes. It could be the weather, the food in that particular region, or cultural habits.
For type 1 diabetes, the people who have a higher risk are those from Sweden and Finland. People of Caucasian origin may be more susceptible probably because of the weather. It was observed that type 1 is also prevalent in other cold countries such as the United States, Japan, and other European countries.
With regards to type 2 diabetes, the most vulnerable are the African-Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians, Native Americans, and Alaska Natives.
• 13.2 percent of all African Americans who are 20 years or older have been diagnosed with diabetes.
• Compared to white people, African Americans are 1.7 times more likely to acquire diabetes.
• Although obesity can increase the likelihood of having diabetes, Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiian, and Asian Americans do not need to be overweight or obese to get diabetes. If they are, their risk of having diabetes also rises.
• Alaska Natives and Native Americans are 2.2 times more likely to have diabetes when compared to non-Hispanic whites. Also, it is estimated that 30 percent of them have pre-diabetes.
5. High Body Mass Index (BMI)
What is body mass index (BMI)? It is a means of measuring body fat, taking into consideration a person’s height and weight. A high BMI can increase the chance of developing certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and certain kinds of cancer.
How to know your BMI? There are lots of BMI calculators and charts on the internet; just search it on your web browser. Just indicate your height and weight and the calculator will give you your BMI. Here is a summary of what your BMI means (for adults 20 years old and above):
BMI is below 18.5 – underweight
BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9 – healthy weight
BMI is between 25 and 29.9 – overweight
BMI is 30 and above – obese
If you are overweight or obese, you are at a higher risk of having diabetes, especially type 2 (non-insulin-dependent diabetes). It is estimated that over 85 % of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight.
People who have a high concentration of fats in the abdominal area also have a greater risk. If you are overweight, your body may become resistant to the effects of insulin. This could lead to a higher blood sugar level.
If you have a high BMI and living a sedentary (not physically active) lifestyle, then your chance of having type 2 diabetes is doubled. Having regular exercise like walking, jogging, and aerobics can lower your blood glucose level and reduce the risk.
Certain risks can increase the chance of having diabetes. These include high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), race/ethnicity, and high body mass index (BMI).
Diabetes is an illness that may lead to serious, life-threatening complications if left unchecked. It is therefore of great importance that you know the risks that can lead to diabetes. If you feel that you are at risk, consult a physician.