Most people think of diabetes as a disorder that tends to affect men, yet of the 24 million Americans with diabetes more than half are women. That's because, old or young, one-third of American women are overweight, and more than one-fourth do not participate in any leisure-time physical activity, according to the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III 1988-1994). One out of every three children born today will face a future with diabetes if current trends continue.

Few disorders are as prevalent as diabetes, but what exactly is it?

Diabetes is a chronic condition in which your body either does not produce enough insulin, or it does not use insulin properly. Diabetes can lead to serious health complications, including kidney disease, nerve damage and vision problems. It can also raise your risk of heart disease. In fact, 2 out of 3 people with diabetes die from heart disease and stroke. This is likely because most people with diabetes also have one or more cardio metabolic risk factors, which are being overweight, having high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels and high triglycerides.

The death rate from diabetes continues to climb. Since 1987, the death rate due to diabetes has increased by 45%, while the death rates due to cancer, heart disease, and stroke have declined.

About 60-70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that could result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction, and other nerve problems.

The rate of amputation for people with diabetes is 10 times higher than for people without diabetes.

  • Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.

Diabetes Care

Certified diabetes educators at North Kansas City Hospital provide patients with knowledge and resources to help prevent or live with diabetes. Your team consists of a nurse, dietician, pharmacist, physical therapist and social worker. These group sessions are available during daytime, evening hours and on Saturday; and require a physician referral. For more information about the Living with Diabetes program, call Outpatient Scheduling at North Kansas City Hospital, 816-691-5267.

Individualized care is offered if you are a patient in the Hospital. A nurse will visit your room to speak with you about medications, food planning, exercise and any questions you may have regarding your diabetes.

Diabetes Support

There is also a free support group available that meets the first Thursday of even months at 7 p.m. For more information about the Living with Diabetes support group, call Mary Beth Fisher, 816-691-1666.

Pre-diabetes and how to decrease your chances:

Pre-diabetes commonly has no signs or symptoms. Take action and decrease your risk:

  • Know your fasting glucose number. Normal range is 60 - 100 mg/dL.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight for you. It is particularly important to reduce excess abdominal fat (apple-shaped bodies are at increased risk).
  • Increase your physical activity.
  • Manage your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Factors that increase your risk:

The following factors can increase your risk, and the more factors that apply to you, the more important it is to make sure you are taking action to prevent diabetes.

  • Age - 45 or older.
  • Family history of pre-diabetes or diabetes.
  • Hispanic, African-, Asian-, or Indian-American.
  • Gestational diabetes (or delivered a baby over 9 pounds).
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
  • Obesity.
  • Poor diet or exercsing less than three times a week.
  • High blood pressure and abnormal blood cholesterol levels.

Warning Signs

Watch for "red flags" that warn you may have diabetes:

  • Increased thirst.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Extreme hunger.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Fatigue.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Slow-healing sores and frequent infections.
  • Itchy skin.

Preventing Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association recommends routine blood glucose screenings for everyone, starting at age 45. Pre-diabetes testing is important for anyone with a family history of type 2 diabetes, women with a personal history of gestational diabetes and for those who are obese or have cardio metabolic syndrome.

Steps you can take:

  • Partner with your doctor - discuss any symptoms and review both your personal and family medical history.
  • Eat to prevent diabetes - follow a balanced, nutritious diet and limit portion sizes.
  • Exercise - 30 minutes of regular exercise most days of the week is recommended.
  • Lose weight and maintain a healthy weight for your body - excess weight increases blood pressure and works against the action of insulin.
  • Stop smoking - if you smoke, quit!
  • Reduce alcohol intake - limit alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day.

If you already have diabetes, the same preventive measures will also help you manage your diabetes and reduce your risk of health complications down the road. With proper management, diabetes can be being on the alert, you can help prevent diabetes from happening to you.

Physicians who specialize in Endocrinology at North Kansas City Hospital:

Hellman & Rosen Endocrine Associates, PC