In recognition of November being American Diabetes Month, Dr. Carmella Evans-Molina will address your questions about diabetes. Dr. Evans-Molina is an endocrinologist with Clarian Health, an assistant professor of medicine for the Indiana University School of Medicine’s Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism and the president of the Community Leadership Board for the American Diabetes Association – Indiana Area.
What is Type 2 diabetes?
In Type 2 diabetes, the cells in our bodies stop responding to insulin, which is a very important protein that regulates how the glucose (a type of sugar) that we eat is taken into cells and converted to energy. When this occurs, the pancreatic beta cells (which make insulin) attempt to compensate for insulin resistance by producing more and more insulin. Eventually, though, in the setting of all this increased demand, the beta cells simply become “exhausted.” They may permanently fail or may even die. At this point, insulin levels fall dramatically and glucose levels in the bloodstream rise.
Are certain ethnic groups more likely to develop certain types of diabetes?
Certain ethnic groups are at higher risk of developing diabetes. Here in the U.S., African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans have the highest risk of Type 2 diabetes. Certainly genetics and family history may explain a lot of this risk, but environmental factors like diet and exercise also are important. Access to health care and preventative care is an important consideration as well.
Who else is at risk for diabetes?
Aside from genetic risk, diabetes is more prevalent in individuals who are overweight or obese, older individuals, those with sedentary lifestyles, a previous history of gestational diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy and babies with low birth weights.
How prevalent is diabetes in America?
At present, nearly 24 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. Another 55 million individuals are considered to be at “high-risk” for diabetes, a condition called pre-diabetes. More than 700,000 Hoosiers have diabetes.
What can adults do to treat or prevent diabetes?
The first step is to understand your risk. This involves knowing your family history, knowing your hemoglobin A1C values and your blood glucose values. Also, we each need to strive to maintain a normal weight and body mass index, also known as BMI. Finally, we need to eat healthy and exercise regularly.