Diabetes can have either a modest or major impact on someone’s life, depending in large part on how well they control the disease. Without good control of diet and high blood sugars, diabetes can lead in time to major medical problems including increased risk of heart attack and stroke, advanced kidney disease, blindness, chronic nerve dysfunction or pain, and loss of one or both legs due to vascular disease.
As of 2010, more than 1 in 10 adult Americans age 20 or older had diabetes, and one-third had an elevation of blood sugar consistent with prediabetes, according to data compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other organizations including the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health. More than one-quarter of all Americans with diabetes are unaware they have the disease. Diabetes is the 7th-leading cause of death, and the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic leg amputation, and new-onset blindness, among adult Americans.
Management of diabetes begins with modifying diet to keep blood sugars under control, as well as the use of diabetes medications such as oral meds or insulin under the care of a healthcare provider. Exercise and weight loss can also play an important role in keeping blood sugars under control. Good control of blood sugars in turn is critical for the prevention of the serious health problems that diabetes can cause if not properly treated.