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Published on March 30, 2018

Diabetes: Who’s At Risk, Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes in Children

Diabetes Monitor

In this series:

Who's At Risk

Diabetes is a serious public health burden in the US. It affects over 30 million people, while another 84 million people have prediabetes. Each year, about 2 million people get diagnosed with diabetes.

About 95% percent of all diabetes is Type 2, where the body has trouble processing blood sugar due to insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with weight and is more likely to be found in overweight individuals. If diagnosed and treated early, Type 2 can be managed mainly with diet and exercise.

The risk of type 2 diabetes is higher in individuals who are obese, follow an unhealthy diet, physically inactive, have a family history, have delivered a baby that weighed over 9 pounds, has a history of gestational diabetes or belongs to an ethnic minority. Other risk factors include pancreatic diseases such as inflammations, alcoholism, or trauma. Well-planned, long-term, lifestyle modification presents a unique opportunity for even preventing type 2 diabetes.

Preventative methods include adopting healthy dietary habits that bring about weight loss and regular exercise. Individuals who are diagnosed with diabetes should talk to their provider about developing a treatment plan customized to their health condition and personal needs.

Dr. Gebre Nida is an endocrinologist with Reidsville Endocrinology Associates and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.

Pre-Diabetes

Diabetes is diagnosed by taking a reading of an individual’s fasting, random or three-month average blood sugar levels. When a person has blood sugar levels that fall in between the normal and diabetes ranges, they are considered to have pre-diabetes. Diabetes has to do with the way our body processes food. When an individual has pre-diabetes, it means they are beginning to develop insulin resistance—which slows the flow of glucose to the cells, causing a back-up of sugar in the blood.

Symptoms of pre-diabetes may include:

  • Darkened skin on the neck, armpits, elbows, knees or knuckles
  • Continuing to feel hungry after eating
  • Unexpected weight gain that is hard to lose

When an individual is diagnosed with pre-diabetes, making some lifestyle modifications can help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The goal is to regulate the amount of sugar in your body, so be conscious of how much sugar is in your diet, as trying to lower your intake can help. Physical activity helps our body process food properly and is an important part of reducing your risk for diabetes.

Individuals who are diagnosed with pre-diabetes should talk to their doctor about getting a referral to an endocrinologist or nutrition and diabetes education services to develop a preventative plan customized to their health condition and personal needs.

Dr. Jennifer Badik is a pediatric endocrinologist at Pediatric Specialists at Wendover Ave and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.

Diabetes in Children

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes sugar and can present itself in two ways: type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease in which the body is destroying the cells in the pancreas that make insulin and is often diagnosed in children and young adults. While the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, it is not brought on by diet or nutrition. With Type 2 diabetes, the body still produces insulin but either not enough or doesn’t use it properly. Type 2 is more commonly associated with adults but is becoming more prevalent in children.

Signs of diabetes include:

  • weight loss
  • increased thirst and/or drinking
  • increased urination
  • increased appetite

These signs can often be mistaken for another illness, but if they persist, talk to your child’s provider about testing their blood sugar levels. Treating diabetes focuses on managing blood sugar levels through regular self-testing and insulin injections, although a healthy diet and exercise regimen can also be beneficial. Your child doesn’t have to live with a restricted diet once they understand how to balance blood sugar levels by counting carbohydrates and insulin intake.

Spenser Beasley is a family nurse practitioner at Pediatric Specialists at Wendover Ave and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.

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