The American Diabetes Association’s annual Alert Day is on March 24, which got us wondering—how well do we really know the disease? To help educate us, we turned to Jeffrey Powell, MD, a Westchester Magazine Top Doctor who specializes in diabetes at Mount Kisco Medical Group. Below, his answers to our need-to-know questions about diabetes.
Jeffrey S. Powell, MD, is an endocrinology and diabetes specialist at Mount Kisco Medical Group.
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Q: What’s the best way to check if you or someone else is at risk for diabetes?
A: A blood test is one of the best ways to check for many risk factors. If you or someone else is concerned about the risks of diabetes, see your doctor.
Q: What are some symptoms people should look for?
A: Most of the time, if sugar levels are elevated, there are no symptoms. There are 8 million undiagnosed people walking around with increased thirst, urination, and weight loss that don’t assume they are possible indications of diabetes.
Q: What are the major differences between the types of diabetes?
A: There are two types of diabetes, which are classified by their causes. Type 1 diabetes is more common in children and young adults who are unable to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the more common of the two for patients to be diagnosed with. Type 2 begins in adulthood. In some cases, blood sugar can be controlled without insulin through healthy diet and exercise. The other form of diabetes is gestational, which women can be diagnosed with during pregnancy.
Q: Is diabetes hereditary or acquired?
A: Type 2 diabetes has been shown to be hereditary. If both parents have the trait then their offspring are five to six times more likely to acquire diabetes. Type 2 deals with lifestyle components such as smoking, being overweight, and the consumption of red meat or sugary beverages that can increase the chances of the disease developing. The intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil can lower the risk of Type 2.
Type 1 diabetes is less hereditary, but there are some genetic factors that can affect the chances of acquiring it. If there is no history, the chance of developing it is 0.4 percent. If one parent has it, there is a one percent to eight percent chance the offspring will produce. The father has a higher chance of passing this trait along, and if both parents are Type 1 there is a 30 percent chance of it developing.
What long-term effects can diabetes have on people who are diagnosed at a young age?
Some of the long-term effects are high blood sugar, which affects the microvasculature (smaller blood vessels). Some potential effects are kidney disease (nephropathy), retina (eye) problems, and nerve injury or damage. Macrovascular (larger blood vessels) complications can result in strokes or heart attacks.
What are some common myths about diabetes?
Some misconceptions that people have are “if I feel fine, everything is okay,” which is not the case. Complications can be silent until noticeable and many don’t “feel” blood pressure rising. Another misconception is that those with diabetes can eat foods with no added sugar to them, but usually these foods contain more carbohydrates (which break down into glucose).
For more information about diabetes visit www.diabetes.org or talk to your doctor about your concerns and interest in taking a blood test.