You have an estimated one in 600,000 chance of being struck by lightning, a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer if you are a woman, and for people born in 2000, a one in five chance of being diagnosed with diabetes. Does that mean any of these three things will definitely happen to you? No.
Dr. Jasbir Dhawan, an endocrinologist on the medical staff at Centennial Medical Center in Frisco, explains that these are risk estimates and refer to the probability that something may occur, not guaranteeing that it will. Risk estimates for diseases such as diabetes are developed by studying large groups of people and evaluating categories and characteristics that may be associated with increased or decreased risk.
With about 10 percent of people over age 65 already diagnosed with diabetes, Dr. Dhawan outlines significant risk factors for developing diabetes that seniors should keep in mind.
1. Obesity- Being overweight or obese (having a body mass index higher than 25) increases your risk for diabetes. This is the primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
2. Family History- If you have a parent or sibling who has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you run a higher risk of developing the condition.
3. Inactive Lifestyle- Because muscles’ cells have more insulin receptors than fat cells, regular exercise can decrease insulin resistance. Regular exercise can also help control weight and lower blood sugar levels by increasing insulin effectiveness. Seniors should try to exercise at least 20 minutes a day with activities like walking or swimming.
4. Increasing Age- Scientists believe that as the pancreas ages, it doesn't pump insulin as efficiently. People over the age of 45 should be tested for type 2 diabetes every three years if results are normal. If results are border line, the test should be repeated annually.
5. Genetics- African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Alaska Natives, American Indians and Asians are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. However, a genetic disposition doesn’t guarantee someone will get diabetes. Lifestyle choices are an important part in determining who could get diabetes.
6. High Blood Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure- The risk of developing diabetes increases if your HDL (good) cholesterol level is under 35 mg/dL or your triglyceride level is over 250 mg/dL. High blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher also increases diabetes risk. These two risk factors are often linked to obesity, in addition to a high-fat diet and lack of exercise, all of which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
You can have many risk factors for diabetes and never develop the condition. Or, you could have just one and be diagnosed with the disease. Researchers are not sure exactly why some people develop diabetes, while others do not. Even though there is no cure for the disease, you can do a lot to lower your risk by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, losing weight and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Dr. Dhawan advises seniors to pay close attention to diet and exercise to control their risk of diabetes. She suggests that you talk with your doctor if you are concerned about your risk of developing diabetes or if you notice any symptoms of type 2 diabetes such as increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, weight loss, blurred vision or slow-healing sores. Each person’s individual risk for developing diabetes is based on a multitude of factors.
Centennial Medical Center offers a comprehensive Diabetes Program that teaches patients and their loved ones how to live a productive life with diabetes. (Note:To register for the program, a referral must be made by your physician.) In addition, Centennial offers Diabetes Support Groups and Pre-Diabetes classes. For more information, call 972-963-3073.