Blog 11/4/2019

November is National Diabetes Month

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. Without proper control, diabetes can cause nerve damage, blindness, kidney disease and other health problems.

To help spread awareness on the issue, November is National Diabetes Month. Below is some information on diabetes, including its prevalence, causes, the effects it has on people, and what you can do to spread awareness!

Diabetes Prevalence

  • One in 10 Americans have diabetes (more than 30 million people).
  • Of the 30.3 million adults with diabetes, 23.1 million were diagnosed, and 7.2 million were undiagnosed.
  • Another 84.1 million have prediabetes, a condition that (if not treated) often leads to type 2 diabetes within five years.
  • About 25% of Americans aged 65 or older have diabetes (diagnosed and undiagnosed).
  • 5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.

Types of Diabetes

When discussing diabetes, it’s important to realize that there are two forms of diabetes—type 1 and type 2. Both are chronic diseases that affect the way your body regulates blood sugar, or glucose. Glucose is the fuel that feeds your body’s cells, but to enter your cells, it needs insulin.

With that in mind, people with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin, while people with type 2 diabetes don’t respond to insulin as well as they should and, later in the disease, often don’t make enough insulin. There is no cure for either form of diabetes.

Both types of diabetes, if not controlled, share many similar symptoms, including:

  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling very thirsty or drinking a lot
  • Feeling very hungry
  • Feeling very fatigued
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts or sores that don’t heal properly
  • Irritability, mood changes, and unintentional weight loss (type 1 only).
  • Numbness and tingling in their hands or feet (type 2 only).

Risk Factors

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes include:

  • Family history: People with a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes have a higher risk of developing it themselves.
  • Age: Type 1 diabetes can appear at any age, but its most common among children and adolescents.
  • Geography: The prevalence of type 1 diabetes increases the farther away you are from the equator.
  • Genetics: The presence of some genes point to an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Also, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. You either get it or you don’t.

You can catch type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Have prediabetes (slightly elevated blood sugar levels)
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are physically inactive
  • Have given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
  • Are African-American, Hispanic or Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native
  • Have polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)

Health Effects

  • Adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes.
  • Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. (as of 2015).
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and new cases of blindness among working-age adults.
  • Roughly 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that could result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and other nerve problems.

Preventing Diabetes

While type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, you can decrease your risk for type 2 diabetes by doing the following:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, work with an expert on developing a weight loss plan.
  • Increasing your activity levels
  • Eating a balanced diet, and reducing your intake of sugary or overly processed foods

Spreading Awareness

How can you help spread the word on diabetes? Try any of the following:

  • Wear blue (more specifically, an open blue circle). This is the universal symbol for diabetes. Consider posing a challenge to employees: For every person who wears blue on Fridays in November, your company will donate a dollar to a diabetes organization.
  • Participate in a diabetes fundraising event. For example, the American Diabetes Association hosts Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes events across the country. Start a team with your company, friends, or family to promote wellness and awareness while raising funds for a diabetes cure.
  • Create a bulletin board with information on diabetes in public places. Get creative so it will stand out and be seen!
  • Ask for your company to add diabetes information to their newsletter.
  • Join or create a lifestyle change program. For example, it could include a monthly steps challenge or encourage people to take weekly spin classes at the local gym together. Type 2 diabetes can be avoided with proper eating and activity levels.

Sources: Health Finder, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, American Diabetes Association, Healthline


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