You are not alone. Diabetes Awareness.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and it's never been more important that people know the facts about this ever-growing disease. Nearly 29 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes, while another 85 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a disorder that is characterized by higher than normal levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps break down the glucose and make this energy source available for the body’s many functions. Usually, glucose is important for your body to fuel itself. However, when there isn’t enough insulin, or the body doesn’t respond to or process it properly, the excess sugar in the blood can cause serious health problems.

Symptoms

Some common symptoms of diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, are:

  • Being thirsty more often than usual
  • Finding that you urinate more often than usual
  • Feeling excessively hungry with no apparent cause
  • Feeling tired often
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Having sores that heal more slowly than usual
  • Having dry or itchy skin
  • Having tingling in your feet
  • Having numbness in your feet
  • Having blurry eyesight

You may have one or a number of symptoms above. The best way to find out if you have diabetes, however, is to complete a quick blood test with your doctor.

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes, which used to more commonly be called insulin-dependent diabetes, occurs when your body doesn’t produce sufficient insulin. If you are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, your doctor will prescribe supplemental insulin to help the body break down and use glucose as energy.

If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need to learn how to monitor your blood sugar levels and take insulin. Your doctor will help you with this.

Type 2

With type 2 diabetes, the excess sugar in the blood can be caused by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin or to use insulin optimally.

Your risk of experiencing type 2 diabetes can increase as you age. Your weight (in proportion to your height) can also put you at risk. That’s why keeping track of your body mass index, or BMI, is so important. Having a BMI of 25 or higher raises your risk of type 2 diabetes significantly.

Yet, anyone can develop type 2 diabetes, regardless of your your age or BMI. To protect yourself, be aware of the symptoms and have your glucose levels checked from time to time when you visit your doctor.

Gestational Diabetes

Some women develop changes in their bodies during the later stages of pregnancy that cause them to have trouble with high blood sugar levels. This is called gestational diabetes. If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your doctor will work closely with you during your pregnancy to manage this disorder.

Pre-diabetes

Pre-diabetes is a condition where your glucose (blood sugar) levels are high, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. While not considered to be as serious as diabetes, having pre-diabetes can still adversely affect your health. It can begin a cascade of damage to those organs most vulnerable to the effects of diabetes: the heart, circulatory system, eyes, nerves, kidneys, gums, and teeth. However, there is good news: if you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it is oftentimes easier to seek treatment and prevent the complications of what can potentially occur should you develop diabetes.

Prevention

Pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes may be prevented by avoiding conditions and behaviors that put you at higher risk, such as:

  • Having a sedentary lifestyle (not getting enough physical activity)
  • Being overweight (having a BMI that’s 25 or higher)
  • Not having a good diet (consuming foods with high levels of sugar and added sugar)

Turning things around

  • Change of attitude
    Making the decision to change your lifestyle can be the first and biggest step. A change in attitude can keep you going. Make the decision that you’re worth it and that you’re going to make your health a top priority.
  • Get to a healthier weight
    Take a slow and easy approach to get closer to a healthier weight. Even moderate weight loss can reduce your risk of experiencing type 2 diabetes. Being aware of the portion sizes of the food you eat and getting more physical activity can be a great combo for getting you closer to a healthier weight.
  • Get plenty of physical activity
    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends that adults get at least 2½ hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week. You don’t have to do it all at once; you can spread this activity out over easy 30-minute increments, five days a week. You can choose from many activities and do them in bouts of 10 minutes. HHS also advises doing muscle-strengthening exercises 2 or more days a week.
  • Eat right
    Keeping an eye on the calories you consume vs. those you burn through activity is a daily balancing act. Find out the proper amount of calorie intake for your body and set goals for yourself. And remember that lower levels of physical activity on any given day means you’ll need to consume fewer calories. While some foods, like fruits and vegetables, clearly get the “green light” nutritionally, others deserve a yellow or even a red light. Fats, oils, sugars, and other high-calorie/low nutrition foods should be approached with caution. Sodium should also be on your list of “yellow light” foods, and in some cases deserves a red light.

Make the change

Small, consistent changes can make a big difference, so take charge and make your health a top priority to lower your risk of diabetes.

Smiling nurse talks with a smiling middle aged man.

Diabetes Quiz

1) Approximately what percentage of the population age 65 and older has diabetes?






C) 25 Percent

As you get older, your risk for developing diabetes increases. Over 25 percent (26.9 percent) of the population age 65 and older has been diagnosed with diabetes.

2) What percentage of the population age 20 and older have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes?






C) 35 Percent

Pre-diabetes is a condition where your glucose (blood sugar) levels are high, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. While not considered as serious as diabetes, having pre-diabetes can still adversely affect your health. About 35 percent of the population age 20 and older has been estimated to have pre-diabetes.

3) Studies have shown that people with pre-diabetes who decrease their weight and get regular physical activity can prevent or delay developing diabetes.



True

Recent studies have shown that losing weight and getting regular physical activity are effective ways of preventing diabetes from developing further for some people.

4) Diabetes can affect your:







F) All of the above

All of the above—along with your teeth and gums—are affected by diabetes and pre-diabetes. The severity of the effects often depends on your ability to control blood sugar levels. Generally speaking, the more control you have over your blood sugar levels—keeping them in the normal range—the better for your health.

5) Diabetes cost approximately what amount of money each year in the United States?






E) Over 150 billion dollars

The estimated cost for diabetes in the United States is over 150 billion dollars (174 billion). It’s estimated that 116 billion are in direct medical costs.

6) Adults with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to have heart disease than adults without diabetes.



True

People who have diabetes are more likely to experience heart disease than those without diabetes.

7) What is the leading risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes?






D) Being overweight or obese

The leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes is being overweight or obese.

8) Diabetes is the leading cause for blindness among people ages 20 to 74 years old.



B) True

Almost 30 percent of people over 40 who have diabetes also suffer from diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision loss.

9) Which is the most common type of diabetes?




B) Type 2

It’s been estimated that over 90 percent of people with diabetes have type 2.

10) You should get tested for diabetes if you:






E) All of the above

All of the above are good reasons to get tested for elevated levels of glucose (sugar) in your blood.

Are you interested in learning more about diabetes? Explore these resources:

Poll

What will you do this month to lower your risk of diabetes?
Add more physical activity to my week0%
Make better food choices0%
Lose some weight (if your BMI is 25 or over)0%
Get my blood sugar levels tested0%
Maintain a healthy weight (if your BMI is under 25)0%

Together we can beat diabetes. Visit your FOH nurse today.

Diabetes Resources