What You Need to Know About Diabetes

And what the Affordable Care Act can do to help

By Juan Zubiate, Hispanic Marketing Director, Anthem Blue Cross
Published on LatinoLA: November 13, 2014

What You Need to Know About Diabetes

Most Hispanics know diabetes is a disease that is disproportionately affecting the Latino community. Hispanics also know that to prevent diabetes, the best approach is a healthy lifestyle using a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise. It is also vital to get regular medical checkups, and now ÔÇô thanks to the Affordable Care Act ÔÇô all health plans offer these visits at no extra cost.

These tactics can help prevent diabetes, a lifelong disease that can have serious consequences for your health if not detected early.

To understand diabetes, it is important to first understand the process by which the body breaks down food to use for energy. When food is digested a sugar called glucose, the body's energy source, enters the bloodstream. An organ called the pancreas produces insulin, whose role is to move glucose from the bloodstream into muscle, fat and liver cells, where it can be used as energy. People with diabetes either cannot produce enough insulin or are not sensitive to insulin, so their bodies cannot move sugar to cells to be stored for energy. This causes too much glucose to build up in their blood, a condition called hyperglycemia.

Visiting a doctor for regular checkups and understanding possible symptoms will help to detect diabetes in its early stages, especially for people who have a family history of diabetes or who are obese.

Among those with diabetes, 33 percent experience skin problem at some point in their life, caused or aggravated by the disease. The American Diabetes Association explains that for some individuals, skin problems can be the first signs of the disease. If detected early, these issues can be successfully treated.

Oftentimes, a person's blood sugar levels are high for many years before diabetes is diagnosed. This stage is called pre-diabetes. For people with pre-diabetes, high blood sugar can damage cause lesions or damage in sensitive organs. These lesions often occur in the nerves, arteries and heart. A loss of skin sensitivity, called neuropathy, is one of the first signs that the nerves are damaged.

Between 60 and 70 percent of diabetics suffer from a disease of the nervous system, to due high levels of glucose in the blood damaging the blood vessels that bring oxygen to the nerves. In very serious cases, amputation of the feet, toes or lower limbs may be necessary. Heart attacks and strokes are more common in diabetics than in the rest of the population. Vision loss is also common.

High blood sugar can also damage the kidneys, impairing their ability to properly eliminate waste. This condition is called diabetic nephropathy, and if not treated properly, it can cause kidney failure, requiring dialysis and a kidney transplant.
When a patient begins to notice symptoms in different organs, usually damage that has been done cannot be repaired. However recent studies reinforce the fact that proper diabetes treatment can prevent most serious secondary complications. It is possible to avoid many serious consequences by being proactive. The first step is to see your doctor and the Affordable Care Act makes it easier than ever before.

Act now.

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