What is Diabetes? Know the Risks
Kaiser Permanente Alpharetta Medical Office
Richard Ellin, M.D. Richard Ellin, M.D.

Internal medicine doctor from Kaiser Permanente gives the facts on diabetes

Twenty-nine million—that is the number of Americans living with diabetes, and more than eight million of them don't even know it, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Chances are you have a family member who is diabetic, and those chances are multiplied if you are a minority.

So, what exactly is this disease diagnosed in nearly two million adults each year? Diabetes develops when there are abnormally high glucose or sugar levels in the blood, and it can lead to heart disease, blindness, amputations, and even death when not managed properly. But research has produced promising findings—a healthy lifestyle can cut your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for an estimated 90 percent of diabetes cases.

Educate yourself about diabetes, its risk factors and the preventive measures you can take today to avoid a troubling diagnosis later in life.

How does diabetes affect the body?

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the most common forms of the disease. Your body naturally produces insulin to regulate the blood glucose level. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin. The condition, which is treated with insulin supplements, is prevalent among children and teens. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot respond normally to the insulin it produces.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Contact your doctor if you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:

  • frequent urination
  • excessive thirst
  • unexplained weight loss
  • extreme hunger
  • extreme fatigue
  • irritability
  • blurry vision

doctorconsultWhat are the risk factors for diabetes, and how can I lower my risk of developing the disease?

A family history of diabetes increases your risk of developing both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. While it is unclear how to prevent Type 1 diabetes, research shows that obesity is a leading risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Lower your risk by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.

If I have diabetes, what steps can I take to manage it properly?

  • Keep your blood sugar (glucose) levels well controlled. Test your blood sugar to be sure it is in the target range set by you and your doctor. Take blood sugar medication as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Ask your doctor if you should take low-dose aspirin along with cholesterol or blood pressure medicine to help prevent heart attack and stroke.
  • Eat a healthy diet. The right nutrition is key to preventing and managing diabetes.
  • Stay or become more physically active. Try walking for 30 minutes at least five days a week. If you're overweight, losing as little as seven to 15 pounds can make a big difference in your health.


Richard Ellin, M.D.
Kaiser Permanente Alpharetta Medical Office

Dr. Richard Ellin is board-certified in internal medicine and practices at the Kaiser Permanente Alpharetta Medical Office. He completed medical school and his residency at Emory University. Read more about Dr. Ellin at

Did you know that Kaiser Permanente offers free healthy living classes to the public? If you have been told you have pre-diabetes or a family history of diabetes and want to learn your risks, register for our Preventing Diabetes class. This one-session class will help you understand what puts you at risk and how to take control of your future.

Visit kp.org/classes for details or call 404-364-7117 and leave a message.