Raising Awareness: National Diabetes Month

Nov Diabetes HP 2
November ushers in more than just falling leaves and cooler temperatures; it marks the beginning of National Diabetes Month, a critical time to spotlight a growing health concern. Diabetes, a chronic condition affecting millions globally, is often referred to as the silent epidemic. The reason behind this is because in many instances, diabetes remains undetected as it evolves over time, its symptoms eluding early recognition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in 2022 the US had 37.3 million people with diabetes which is about 11.3% of the population. An estimate of 28.7 million people was diagnosed with diabetes while about 8.6 million people have diabetes but have not yet been diagnosed. These are staggering numbers, and in fact, it’s not just a concern in the US. Diabetes is a global issue, with cases on the rise in many countries.

Types of Diabetes

To understand the diabetes epidemic, it’s important to know that it comes in various forms, Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 Diabetes is also known as juvenile diabetes. It is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This results in little to no insulin production, leading to high blood sugar levels. Type 1 Diabetes is not linked to lifestyle factors, unlike Type 2. It is typically diagnosed in children and young adults but can occur at any age. Treatment for Type one includes ongoing blood sugar monitoring and daily insulin therapy based upon glucose levels.

Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and accounts for 90 to 95% of all cases, accounting for 462 million people, or 6.3% of the global population. This type of diabetes is preventable as it is associated with lifestyle factors including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor dietary choices.  Essentially it is a metabolic disorder characterized by insulin resistance, where the body’s cells do not respond effectively to insulin, and a relative insulin deficiency. Managing Type 2 Diabetes involves making lifestyle changes, including healthy eating, regular physical activity, weight management, blood sugar monitoring, and in some cases, medications.

Can You Be Diagnosed with Prediabetes?

Yes, you absolutely can. Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be classified as Type 2 diabetes. It’s like a yellow traffic light, signaling caution and the need for intervention. The medical term for this condition is Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) or Impaired Fasting Glucose (IFG), depending on how it’s diagnosed.

Risk Factors

The causes of diabetes are complex. Factors such as obesity, physical inactivity, and poor dietary habits are linked to an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. This awareness helps individuals make informed decisions about their health. The cause of Type I diabetes is unknown but can be associated with a parent or sibling with Type 1 diabetes and usually develops in children, teens, or young adults, though you can still get it at any age. There are several risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors

  • Lifestyle: Being prediabetic, overweight, physically active less than 3x a week
  • Age: Being age 45 years or older
  • Family History: Having a parent or sibling with Type 2
  • Race: African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, and Alaska Native have higher tendencies towards diabetes
  • Pre-existing Conditions: If you’ve ever had Gestational Diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy), given birth to a baby who weighed over 9 pounds, or if you have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

In the fight against diabetes, lifestyle choices emerge as the most potent defense. While genetics and other factors play their part, it’s within our grasp to influence the course of this condition through our daily decisions. By embracing a balanced diet, staying physically active, and maintaining a healthy weight, we can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes. It’s a reminder that our daily choices are the front lines in the battle against this silent epidemic.

How Diabetes Impacts your Health

Diabetes is not just about high blood sugar; it can lead to severe complications. Heart disease, kidney problems, and vision loss are just a few examples of the potential health issues associated with diabetes. National Diabetes Month reminds us of the importance of diabetes management and prevention, as well as the consequences of inaction.

8 Symptoms of Diabetes

  1. Urinating often
  2. Feeling very thirsty
  3. Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating
  4. Blurry vision
  5. Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  6. Extreme fatigue
  7. Weight loss – even though you’re eating more (Type 1)
  8. Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (Type 2)

National Diabetes Month serves as a reminder that awareness and action are key to preventing and managing diabetes. By spreading awareness, we can potentially impact the lives of those at risk by encouraging lifestyle changes to combat disease onset, and we can help those with diabetes manage their disease more effectively to avoid challenging comorbidities.  The goal is to change the course of this silent epidemic to impact a healthier lifestyle for all.

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