More than 30 million Americans have diabetes. It’s so common you may not think of it as a serious problem, but diabetes is in fact a serious disease. Eighty-four million Americans also have prediabetes, a condition of elevated blood sugar levels that can lead to type 2 diabetes. Why is this such a prevalent problem? It is likely due to an aging population, increasing obesity rates, and sedentary lifestyles.

Why is diabetes such a problematic disease? It is strongly associated with other health problems, including:

  • Heart and blood vessel damage
  • Vision problems
  • Kidney disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Skin problems, including slow-healing wounds

However, diabetes is also a largely a preventable disease, and you can offset your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by understanding some of the most common risk factors, such as:

  • Body composition (fat-to-muscle ratio)
  • Aging
  • Gynecological/Obstetrical history, especially gestational diabetes and PCOS
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Family history

If you’re at high risk for diabetes, lifestyle changes can help. Even if you’re low-risk, the same changes can still dramatically improve your health. By including more whole foods and regular exercise, and reducing stress, smoking, and alcohol, you can reduce you risk for diabetes and other preventable illnesses. Start making some of these lifestyle changes on today, and your next checkup will result in positive news!