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More than 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes and millions more have it — but don’t know it. With a disease that widespread, it’s important to draw attention to it and make people aware of the symptoms and impact of diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease that affects a person’s blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels. Diabetes causes the blood glucose to be too high.

Glucose comes from the foods we eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy.

With type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make insulin. With the more common type 2 diabetes, your body does not make or use insulin well.

Potential complications of diabetes

Diabetes is taking a heavy toll on this country’s health. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations (other than injury related) and new cases of blindness among adults. It can cause nerve damage, heart disease and stroke.

It can also lead to chronic wounds such as ulcers. These sores are often seen on the feet or legs.

You may not realize that …

■ People with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized for a heart attack or stroke.

■ Diabetes causes nearly 50 percent of all cases of kidney failure.

■ More than half of all amputations in adults occur in people with diabetes.

■ More than half a million American adults have advanced diabetic retinopathy, greatly increasing their risk for severe vision loss.

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

Beyond the medical challenges of diabetes, there’s a huge financial cost. The total cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States last year was $327 billion.

Report these symptoms

Symptoms of this disease can be so mild that they may not be noticed. Please report any of the following symptoms to your health care provider:

■ Urinating often

■ Feeling very thirsty

■ Feeling very hungry — even though you are eating

■ Extreme fatigue

■ Blurry vision

■ Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal

■ Weight loss — even though you are eating more (type 1)

■ Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands and/or feet (type 2)

Help prevent Type 2 diabetes

You can take steps to help prevent diabetes:

■ Ask your health care provider if you should be checked for diabetes. A simple blood test — called the A1C test — can show whether you have diabetes or are at risk for developing the disease.

■ Be physically active every day. Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Work out with weights to increase lean body mass at least twice a week.

■ Keep yourself at a desirable weight. If you are overweight, even a small weight loss can help decrease your risk for diabetes.

■ Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Cut down on sweets and high-fat foods.

■ Don’t go longer than four or five hours without eating.

■ Enjoy healthy snacks when hungry.

■ Don’t skip meals.

■ Watch portion sizes — read food labels.

■ Limit foods high in sugar and fat.

■ Avoid regular soda and sweetened beverages.

By making important lifestyle changes now, you may be able to alter the course of your long-term health. If you already have diabetes, your goal should be to have your blood sugar under optimal control — that is, in the range that will keep you feeling well and help prevent complications.

Dr. Khaled Elkady is an internal medicine physician at Aurora Bay Area Health Center at 4061 Old Peshtigo Road in Marinette. His office can be reached at 715-732-8000.