If I asked everyone for a show of hands if they know someone living with diabetes I would bet that there would be a significant number of hands raised.

The prevalence of diabetes in the United States is high with an increasing number of younger people now also developing prediabetes and diabetes. With this number being so high, knowing and understanding the risk factors of diabetes is an important prevention tool for your health care arsenal.

How high are these numbers? According to the American Diabetes Association there are about 30.3 million Americans living with diabetes. This represents about 9.4% of the U.S. population and means about every one in 11 people you meet is someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes. Look around you at the store or work or church — one in 11 means you are walking right alongside many people diagnosed with this disease.

Know what is even scarier? When we look at that 30.3 million, we are looking at both diagnosed and undiagnosed. The diagnosed represent about 23.1 million people leaving 7.2 million people out there undiagnosed. I don’t know about you, but 7.2 million seems like a lot of people.

Preventative care and good management are keys to living a healthier, longer life with diabetes. Knowing that you have it is the first step in taking care of yourself.

There are three main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, your body can’t make insulin, so insulin injections will have to happen every day.

In Type 2 diabetes, you still make insulin, but it’s not working as well and can’t keep your sugar levels controlled.

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Women who have gestational diabetes are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life.

What about prediabetes? Prediabetes puts people at increased risk of developing not only type 2 diabetes, but also heart disease and stroke. In prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Let’s be clear about one thing — there is no such thing as borderline diabetes, just as there is no such thing as being borderline pregnant. You either have it or you don’t (or as is the case with pregnancy, you either are or you aren’t).

The thing about prediabetes is you can’t brush it off. Having prediabetes increases your risk of developing Type 2 DM as well as increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. This is the time to make those lifestyle changes because without these changes it is estimated that 15-30% of these people will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

There are several risk factors that make you more likely to develop prediabetes or diabetes. These include being over the age of 45, having a parent or sibling with diabetes, being overweight, having a low HDL cholesterol and/or high triglycerides, having had gestational diabetes, having polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), being physically inactive or being of African-American, Hispanic, American Indian or Pacific Islander descent. To further investigate your risk you can go to www.diabetes.org and take the Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test.

The top three things that I recommend patients do when they are diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes are to watch their weight, move their body and eat healthy. Working on these three can have a meaningful impact on blood glucose levels and disease progression.

For eating healthy we recommend that you increase your intake of nonstarchy vegetables and stick to moderate amounts of proteins and starchy foods. We know that as little as 7% weight loss can improve glucose readings and making a change in your eating habits is important for reaching this goal.

Physical activity is also important and the American Diabetes Association suggests that you do three or more minutes of light activity every 30 minutes during prolonged periods of sitting. In general, we recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise most days. I always encourage my patients to take a short, 10 -15 minute walk after each meal, but especially a heavier meal to help aid digestion and glucose control.

Taking diabetes medicine as prescribed and testing your blood sugar round out the lifestyle activities that help you do a better job of taking care of yourself.

Finally, know your ABCs. In this case, A stands for the Hemoglobin A1C test which measures average blood sugar over two to three months. Blood pressure is represented by “B” and should be checked each time you visit the doctor. Cholesterol is our “C” and should be checked annually.

Nobody wants to have diabetes, but once you have been diagnosed with it, you need to face it head on. Own your feelings. There will be days that you will not be happy about having diabetes, so get your mad out and move on.

It is important to know that you are not alone in this battle and that there are people to help support and educate you through this.

By knowing your risk and taking advantage of making healthy changes, you can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. At Carolina Pines, we offer a monthly program called Living Well With Diabetes. It is on the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Education Classroom.

To promote Diabetes Awareness Month our program will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 14, from 4-6 p.m. as we hold our annual Diabetes Health Fair. We will offer blood pressures, body fat analysis, education on self-management and much more. Share this event with friends and family who may benefit from learning a little more about diabetes.

We hope you will be able to join us at the Diabetes Fair! I look forward to meeting you there. Until next time … Live healthy!

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