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November was American Diabetes Month. Chances are you know someone who has diabetes, a metabolic disorder affecting more than 37 million Americans, including those who have the disease but have not been diagnosed.

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that occurs when excess glucose (sugar) builds up in the blood. It can cause numerous health problems if not properly managed. Some symptoms of diabetes may seem so insignificant that you may not even notice them for months or years — but being diagnosed early is key to a lifetime of better health.

If left untreated, long-term diabetes complications include cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack, stroke and narrowing of the arteries, according to dietitian Katy Stemple, MDA, RDN, manager of the Abrazo Health Medical and Surgical Weight Loss Program.

“The increase in diabetes in adults worldwide has quadrupled over the last few decades. The connection with heart and blood vessel damage is undeniable,” Stemple said. While there isn’t a cure yet for diabetes, the CDC says losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active can really help.

“Type 2 diabetes, which typically is diagnosed in adults and accounts for between 90-95% of all diagnosed cases, can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease and kidney disease,” she explained. “In the last 20 years, the number of adults with diabetes has more than doubled as the American population has become more overweight or obese.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in people living with diabetes, resulting in two-thirds of deaths in people with Type 2 diabetes.

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