Can You Catch Diabetes?
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It’s not like the flu–you can’t catch it by having an infected person cough or sneeze on you or shake your hand. Nevertheless, diabetes, a group of metabolic diseases characterized by chronic high blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels, may creep up on you without you even knowing it. According to recent estimates, among adults aged 30 and older, almost 14 percent of men and 12 percent of women have diabetes, with almost a third unaware they even have the condition. Adults in Southern and Appalachian states had the highest rates of diabetes (Mississippi fared the worst), while those in the Northern plains, Northeast, and Midwest had the lowest prevalence.
Although type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of all cases of diabetes in both adults and children, the incidence of the less common form of diabetes, Type 1 diabetes, also seems to be increasing at a fast pace according to a recent European study; although genes are traditionally the key contributors to the development of type 1 diabetes, researchers believe the increased incidence of the condition in children is due to obesity as well as dietary and other factors.
Unfortunately, diabetes is far from a benign condition. Over time, high blood sugar levels can severely damage body organs including kidneys, the heart, and eyes. Although diabetes has many environmental and genetic causes, being overweight or obese is one of the more notable and important risk factors for diabetes among all age groups, so of course achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is one way to reduce your risk for developing this debilitating condition.
According to the American Diabetes Association, symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability, and blurry vision. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to report these to your physician immediately; the sooner you know you’re at risk for or have diabetes, you can take dietary and lifestyle steps (including increasing dietary fiber and whole grain intake, and engaging in regular physical activity) to achieve a healthier body weight to minimize your risks or better manage the condition. Just like with anything else, “catching” the condition as early as possible (instead of ignoring symptoms) will have a more favorable impact on your health and quality of life.
Sources: The New York Times: Diabetes: A State-By-State Breakdown: http://bit.ly/sl4kM; Incidence of Childhood Type 1 Diabetes: A Worrying Trend: http://bit.ly/13RJHk; American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org/.
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