Skip Navigation

Diabetes: What is Your Risk?

April 2016

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

More than 29 million people in the U.S. have type 2 diabetes. Add to that another 86 million adults age 20 or older who have pre-diabetes, meaning their blood sugar is higher than it should be, but not high enough to be considered as having diabetes. It is clear that many people face a major health “issue.”

Type 2 diabetes is serious. Below are some health issues connected to having diabetes:

  • Adults who have diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure and to die of heart disease than those without diabetes.
  • Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney failure and blindness in adults.
  • Nerve problems, such as loss of feeling in the feet or carpal tunnel syndrome, affect most people with diabetes.
  • People with diabetes are more likely than others to need a foot or leg amputation.

Eating sugar won't cause type 2 diabetes, but eating too many calories a day and carrying extra weight can make the body resist insulin and allow blood glucose levels to go up. Sugary treats such as cookies, cake, pie, or ice cream can be part of a healthy diet when you have them occasionally and in small portions. Consider what they add to the total daily calories and consider the entire daily diet before eating or drinking these extra calories.

Understand the Risks. Make an appointment with your doctor and talk about the risk factors you are experiencing such as:
  • Having to urinate often
  • Extreme thirst and extreme hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness and irritability
  • Frequent infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Bruises or cuts that heal slowly
  • Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet, skin, gum
  • Bladder infections that keep coming back

Many people with diabetes don't have symptoms, so talk with your doctor even if you haven't noticed anything unusual. If you're at a higher risk for diabetes, it's important to ask about getting tested every time you see your doctor. That's the only way to know if you have diabetes or not and to find out the level of your risk. In the meantime, take control of your health by practicing healthy habits. Add these tips to your daily routine:

  • Eat a balanced diet of controlled calories
  • Get regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight
  • Don't smoke or be around smokers
  • Limit alcoholic drinks
  • Have regular checkups

Develop a healthy lifestyle, which will have benefits now and help prevent problems in the future. Fortunately, the small steps you take to lower your risk for diabetes are also good for your heart. Every small step makes a difference.