By American Diabetes Association, Sheri R. Colberg

What’s your risk for getting diabetes? It has gone up substantially in the past few decades. In fact, anyone born in the United States from the year 2000 forward has a one-in-three chance of developing diabetes during his or her lifetime, and the incidence is closer to 50 percent if you’re part of a minority group (like African Americans, Hispanics, or Native Americans).

More than 29 million Americans — close to 10 percent of the population — are estimated to already have diabetes, and this number is growing rapidly. Over a quarter of them don’t even know they have it. Add in prediabetes, and the number goes up to over 100 million Americans, or one person out of every three.

Everyone knows someone who has diabetes, so why worry about it? Because high blood glucose levels can be deadly. Having poorly managed diabetes can rob years from your life, and the shorter time you do have may be lived in much poorer health. Ignorance isn’t bliss; ignoring diabetes and not attempting to prevent or manage its possible health consequences isn’t the way to go if you want to live long and well.

Worldwide, this disease causes more than 3.2 million deaths per year, or 6 deaths every minute. Many more deaths are likely related to health problems caused by diabetes that are attributed to some other direct cause, such as a heart attack or a stroke, even though diabetes lead to those events. Unfortunately, poorly managed blood glucose can cause problems with almost every part of your body, including your heart, blood vessels, brain, kidneys, nerves, muscles, and bones. It can even lead to impotence and hearing loss.

Okay, so far this section has been depressing. Here’s some good news: Most diabetes-related health problems are preventable. You simply need to get more physically active and follow a more healthful diet. If your health care provider prescribes medications, taking those may also help prevent future health issues. The combination of these improved lifestyle choices helps lower your blood glucose and prevent systemic inflammation that leads to heart disease, nerve damage, and other health complications when not thwarted.

Well-managed diabetes can be the cause of nothing — that is, no health problems.