Disease Prevention in Women

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Type II diabetes mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels ("hyperglycemia") due to impaired utilization of insulin, decreased production of insulin, or both.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. An estimated 18% of all Americans over 65 have diabetes. Over ten million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes; and at least half as many more are thought to have undiagnosed diabetes. Many more people have a condition that precedes diabetes, referred to as prediabetes, characterized by sluggish metabolism of sugar (glucose) to a lesser degree than is present in those with diabetes.

Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults aged 20-74 years, the leading cause of chronic kidney disease, and the leading cause of lower extremity amputations not related to injury. Individuals with diabetes are 2-4 times as likely to have a heart attack or stroke than are those without diabetes.

Screening tests

Tests for diabetes mellitus include:

  • fasting blood sugar (blood sugar test after at least eight hours without calories), normal level less than 100 mg/dl;
  • pre-diabetes is characterized by a fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dl;
  • diabetes is diagnosed by a fasting glucose level greater than 126 mg/dl; and
  • two-hour postprandial blood sugar (blood sugar test drawn two hours after a meal), A normal post prandial level less than 140mg/dl.

Who to test and how often

Healthy subjects over 45 years of age should have fasting blood glucose level checked every three years. Adults at a higher than normal risk of developing diabetes mellitus should be checked on a more frequent basis.

Risk factors of diabetes include:

  • excessive weight;
  • first-degree blood relative with adult onset diabetes;
  • certain ethnic groups such as African-Americans, Hispanics, certain Native American groups, and some Asians;
  • delivery of a baby weighing more than 9 lbs or a history of diabetes during pregnancy ("gestational diabetes");
  • impaired glucose tolerance, currently or previously; and
  • low HDL cholesterol (35 mg/dl or less) or elevated triglyceride level (over 250 mg/dl).

Benefits of early detection

Diabetes mellitus commonly causes asymptomatic organ damage until the disease is far advanced.

There is good evidence that curtailing total caloric intake (especially intake of processed starches, sugar and sweets), regular exercise, and the loss of excess weight can help prevent the development of diabetes mellitus. Weight control will usually lead to improved metabolism of glucose, often to levels in those with impaired glucose tolerance.

There is good evidence that in patients with diabetes, controlling hyperglycemia with medications, diet, weight control, and regular exercise can slow the development of diabetic complications.

There is also strong evidence that even those with impaired glucose tolerance can significantly improve their otherwise increased risk for atherosclerotic disease (including heart attacks and stroke) with appropriate changes in diet, physical activity, and weight.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/13/2016

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