Diabetes affects more than 17 million Americans. It damages blood vessels, including the coronary arteries of the heart. Up to 75 percent of people with diabetes develop heart and blood vessel diseases. Diabetes also can lead to stroke, kidney failure, and other problems.

Diabetes occurs when the body is not able to use sugar as it should for growth and energy. The body gets sugar when it changes food into glucose (a form of sugar). Insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas, is needed for the glucose to be taken up and used by the body. In diabetes, the body cannot use the glucose in the blood because either the pancreas cannot make enough insulin or the insulin that is available is not effective.

Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst and urination (including at night), weight loss, and blurred vision, hunger, fatigue, frequent infections, and slow healing of wounds or sores.

Most people with diabetes have risk factors that are linked to heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. By managing diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol, people with diabetes can reduce their risk of heart disease.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Know Your Health Tips – Diabetes

  1. Get screened for diabetes regularly – knowing your numbers helps you stay in charge of your health.
  2. Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol as elevated levels are risk factors for diabetes.
  3. Know your family history and discuss it with your doctor; diabetes can be passed genetically.
  4. Make sure your physician knows that you are a first responder; high-stress situations can cause your body to produce more insulin, dangerously lowering your blood glucose levels.
  5. Participate in a minimum of 30-60 minutes of moderately intense activity 5 times per week.
  6. Stay hydrated by getting at least eight, eight-ounce servings (64 ounces) of water per day at minimum.
  7. Eat regularly. Skipping meals can cause your blood glucose to drop, so keep healthy snacks at the station to keep you going during long shifts.
  8. Maintain a healthy weight range, based on your age and gender (as recommended by a physician).
  9. Quit using tobacco products, which can raise blood glucose levels, constrict blood vessels, and cause inflammation.
  10. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep per day to keep hormone levels balanced, which helps you resist unhealthy snacking.

Sources: American Diabetes Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Tools and Resources for Diabetes

Diabetes Risk Test
American Diabetes Association

Health Advisor Risk Calculator
American Diabetes Association

Carbohydrate-Counting Chart for Diabetics

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