November is National Diabetes Month, this proclamation allows individuals, health professionals, organizations and communities across the country bring attention to diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans.
According to the American Diabetes Association, “Every 21 seconds someone is diagnosed with diabetes. Diagnosis means you are much more likely to go blind, lose a limb., die of a heart attack or a stroke. Millions of people are at high risk of developing diabetes. With your support, together, we can continue to fight back.”
There isn’t a cure yet for diabetes, but a healthy lifestyle can really reduce its impact on your life. Daily activities can make a difference: eating a healthy diet, being physically active, taking medicines if prescribed, and keeping healthcare appointments will put you in the right direction.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, but 1 out of 4 of them don’t even know that they have it.”
There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant, which can put the pregnancy and baby at risk and lead to type 2 diabetes later).
For those with type 1 diabetes, your body can’t make insulin (a hormone that acts like a key to let blood sugar into cells for use as energy), so you need to take it every day. Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2 diabetes; about 5% of the people who have diabetes have type 1.
Most people with diabetes—9 out of 10—have type 2 diabetes. Diabetics who are type 2, your body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. If you have any of the risk factors below, ask your doctor if you should be tested for diabetes. The sooner you find out, the sooner you can start making healthy changes that will benefit you now and in the future
Type 2 diabetes risk factors include:
- Having prediabetes (blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes).
- Being overweight.
- Being 45 years or older.
- Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes.
- Being physically active less than 3 times a week.
- Ever having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds.
Race and ethnicity also matter: African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
You can lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes by losing a small amount of weight if you’re overweight and getting regular physical activity.
Diabetes by the Numbers
- More than 30 million US adults have diabetes—and 1 out of 4 of them don’t know they have it.
- At least 1 out of 3 people will develop diabetes in their lifetime.
- Medical costs for people with diabetes are twice as high as for people without diabetes.
- Risk of death for adults with diabetes is 50% higher than for adults without diabetes.
You’ve Been Diagnosed with Diabetes. Now What?
It’s a balancing act—food, activity, medicine, and blood sugar levels—but you can do it. Meeting with a diabetes educator is a great way to get support and guidance, including how to:
- Follow a healthy eating plan.
- Get physically active.
- Test your blood sugar.
- Give yourself insulin by syringe, pen, or pump, if needed.
- Monitor your feet skin, and eyesto catch problems early.
- Get diabetes supplies and store them according to package directions.
- Manage stress and deal with daily diabetes care.
Know Your ABCs
Work with your doctor to manage your diabetes ABCs, and keep a record of your numbers. Results will help determine if your treatment plan is working and you’re able to stay in your target range—for example, an A1C of 7% or less—or if adjustments need to be made. Staying on track will help lower your risk of additional health problems.
- A —the A1C test, which measures average blood sugar over 3 months.
- B —blood pressure,the force of blood flow inside blood vessels.
- C —cholesterol,a group of blood fats that affect the risk of heart attack or stroke.
- s —stop smoking or don’t start.
People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at higher risk for serious health complications, including:
- Heart disease and stroke: People with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as people without diabetes, and at an earlier age.
- Blindness and eye problems: Diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels in the retina), cataracts (clouding of the lens), and glaucoma (increase in fluid pressure in the eye) can all result in vision loss.
- Kidney disease: High blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys over time, long before you start to feel bad.
- Amputations: This means you could lose a foot or leg. Diabetes causes damage to blood vessels and nerves, particularly in the feet, and can lead to serious, hard-to-treat infections. Amputation may be necessary to keep the infection from spreading.
Controlling your blood sugar levels can help you avoid or delay these serious health complications, and treat them as soon as possible to prevent them from getting worse.