Why is it important that my family and I be screened for diabetes?
Michael Vlases, MD answered:
Diabetes is a serious disease that affects nearly 11% of the U.S. adult population, with another 20% at increased risk for developing the disease. Diabetes is a state in which the body loses its ability to control blood sugar, the main source of fuel that travels through the blood to all vital organs. The hormone insulin normally controls blood sugar levels very strictly, but as diabetes develops, the body loses its sensitivity to insulin and its ability to increase insulin production when needed.
High blood sugar slowly destroys the small blood vessels in the eyes and kidneys, causes nerve damage in the legs or elsewhere in the body, and puts a person at great risk for heart attack and stroke. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, blindness, and limb amputations.
Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that destroys insulin production. Type 2 Diabetes develops mainly in western countries, and is directly related to poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. Highly processed foods, particularly those with a lot of carbohydrates, tax the system until it can no longer control blood sugar. Physical inactivity compounds the problem because it slows metabolism and increases the body’s resistance to the effects of insulin.
Screening can identify people in the early stages of diabetes who may be without symptoms. It can also identify people at risk for developing diabetes. Screening is performed with a few simple blood tests. Once identified, diabetes can be controlled or reversed, and risk for diabetes can be reduced. The key to control and prevention is adopting a healthy lifestyle, with careful supervision from your doctor and diabetes educator. Daily aerobic exercise and a diet rich in whole foods and low in processed foods can return many people with diabetes to good health.