BALTIMORE, Md. — Every year, 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
Health officials say the key to living a full and complete life with diabetes is to catch it early.
June is Men's Health Month and WMAR-2 News spoke with Dr. Kashif Munir, medical director of the University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, to find out what symptoms men should look for to get help.
“In men specifically, I think the big thing they often will complain about is erectile dysfunction and kind of those issues. As far as just vascular problems that you could run into, I think you know men definitely experience more heart disease and things like that, if they have diabetes and vascular disease," Munir said.
Type-2 diabetes has been a part of 62-year-old Mason Land Jr.’s life for 30 years.
His name is not the only thing the retired Baltimore police detective shares with his dad.
“I remember my father always been on some type of diet growing up. He was not a real large man. He was very active. He worked for Sparrows Point, retired there. But, he was always going to physicians, him and his brothers and sisters, and it seemed like they always gave them some type of diet," Land said.
Diabetes is genetic for some like Land, while tied to lifestyle for others.
“As you gain weight, your insulin doesn’t seem to function as it normally should, and so that’s a big predisposition to developing diabetes," Munir said.
Land is a patient at the University of Maryland's Diabetes and Endocrinology Center in Baltimore. He credit's Dr. Munir for successfully battling the disease.
“It tends to often catch men earlier on in life. It can present even sometimes we see men in their 20s and 30s sometimes, who have diabetes and have heart attacks and things like that. Now that’s not common, but if you have diabetes it does increase your risks," Munir said.
With type-2 diabetes, the body either doesn't produce enough insulin or resists insulin. Left untreated, it can lead to several serious health complications.
“Diabetes is one of the leading cause of blindness. In the kidneys, its one of the leading causes of chronic kidney disease and needing to go on dialysis. For the nerve endings, it can cause, as we mentioned the numbness tingling and pain, and then if you stop, or if you kind of lose sensation that it increases your risk for ulcers," Munir said.
“If you have poor circulation, then that can also happen. for the heart and brain can cause heart attacks and strokes," Munir added.
Dr. Munir noted the main cause of death from diabetes is heart disease.
“It’s rarely fatal, although it can be so if your glucose levels or your blood sugar levels get high enough. You can actually die from that. So, that’s rare but it is a complication that it can occur," Munir said.
“Because it causes a lot of these chronic complications, it does increase your risk quite a bit for these other complications if you’re not managing everything well. So again, the main cause of death is heart disease but it also increases risk for things like cancer," Munir added.
Those risks are why doctors warn patients to not ignore the symptoms.
“The common symptoms that people will get is they can start to have to go to the bathroom more or frequent urination. Sometimes, even get up at night to go to the bathroom. If they notice if that’s happening more, feel more thirsty. feel like they just need to drink more fluids, blurry vision, fatigue," Munir said.
“Sometimes you can get some numbness or tingling in your hands are free to go to the common signs that you have diabetes and should get checked out," Munir added.
“Trying to ignore it, I think, that’s the worse thing you can do, ignore. And, think with these categories like pre-diabetes. Diabetes is like being almost pregnant, we know that’s not reality," Land said.
Which is why Dr. Munir stressed the importance of paying attention to those warning signs.
"It could take years, but sometimes people go five or ten years without even knowing they have diabetes," Munir said.
Men being men, not all guys like to go to the doctor or talk about what ails them.
“Having a good support system, somebody, just like if you were working out, it’s always good to have somebody there to keep you from...you empower them and they empower you," Land said.
Land has another person on his team watching out for his health besides his doctor.
“Women, at least what I consider in the black community, seem to be the people who encourage men to go to the physician. So, I’ve been married for over 40 years, and you know the women in my life have ensured that I’ve been doing what I’m supposed to do," Land said.