Every November, worldwide attention and awareness campaigns are committed to diabetes, a disease that impacts how our bodies utilize and process sugar also referred to as glucose. In the United States, Diabetes Awareness Week runs from November 6th, 2022, and cumulates on World Diabetes Day - November 14th. We are an on-demand nurse staffing app. As such, we wanted to help kick the week off right and spread diabetes awareness, causes, types of diabetes, statistics, and offer some prevention tips.
The number of persons diagnosed with diabetes is on the rise. Furthermore, it is possible to have it and be unaware. There are four types: two, which may be reversible, gestational diabetes and prediabetes, and two lifelong chronic conditions, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
What Causes Diabetes
Our bodies all process food primarily by breaking it down into energy, mainly glucose. Acting as a controller, the insulin releases the glucose from your bloodstream into your body's cells to be used as energy. Glucose is then released into the bloodstream, and the level of glucose in our bloodstream (commonly referred to as blood sugar level) is held in check by insulin released by the pancreas.
Diabetes means this symbiotic relationship is negatively impacted by the cells not responding to the insulin or by not producing enough insulin to regulate glucose levels. With too much glucose in the bloodstream (hyperglycemia), the body can become weak and overly tired, require frequent urination, increased thirst, and even blurred vision. When blood sugar is too low (hypoglycemia), the heart rate may increase, and the body may experience sweating, shaking, and dizziness.
Currently, there is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes, which is believed to be the result of an autoimmune reaction. Type 2 diabetes may be delayed or prevented because it develops over time.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes affects 2%-10% of pregnant women annually. Some women's bodies don't effectively produce and employ insulin during pregnancy. Often, women with gestational diabetes don't experience symptoms, but thankfully testing for it during pregnancy is pretty standard and occurs during the second trimester. Typically, blood sugar levels normalize after the baby is born.
What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes occurs when high blood sugar levels are not quite high enough to warrant a diabetes diagnosis. Nevertheless, without commitments to lifestyle changes, prediabetes will likely develop into type 2.
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
In type 1 diabetes, the autoimmune reaction prevents your body from producing insulin. This is the least common type of diabetes and is often diagnosed in young children or adolescents. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily for their entire lives.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Also called adult-onset diabetes, type 2 occurs when your body doesn't produce enough or manage insulin well enough to keep your blood sugar levels healthy and safe. While generally diagnosed among adults, there has been a rise in the number of younger people receiving type 2 diagnoses.
If you're wondering why diabetes awareness is so important, it's important to note that type 2 diabetes numbers are growing, yet that type of diabetes is preventable or can be delayed. Here's a look at some statistics pulled from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
How many Americans have diabetes?
- More than 37 million U.S. adults have diabetes (11% of the population).
- The number of adults with diabetes has more than doubled in the last 20 years.
- One in five people who have it, do not realize they have it.
- Ninety-six million people aged 18 years or older have prediabetes (38% of the adult U.S. population).
- 26.4 million people 65 years or older have prediabetes.
- A person with diabetes has a limb amputated nearly every three minutes, which is 75 percent more frequent than less than a decade ago.
- Eighty-five percent of diabetes-related amputations are preventable.
Diabetes Prevention Tips
While some risk factors for diabetes are outside of our control, such as family history and race or ethnicity, lifestyle choices are within our control. As such, it is possible to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Here are some things you can do to reduce risk and avoid or delay diabetes.
- Physical activity helps control our blood sugar levels and makes our bodies more sensitive to insulin. Set a goal of 20-30 minutes per day.
- Work to maintain a healthy weight. This varies by body type and person, so talk to your doctor or nutritionist about what a healthy weight for you is.
- Eat healthier foods. Avoid fad diets, make healthier choices, and incorporate whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts into your meals and snacks.
- Quit smoking cigarettes. People who smoke are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
If you have diabetes and are struggling to pay for insulin or other diabetes medications, the ADA has created a resource page that provides information and phone numbers of manufacturers for insulin, medical devices, diabetes medications, and more. Or you can call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383).
For recipes and grocery shopping tips, check out the Diabetes Food Hub.
Join a Recognized Diabetes Prevention Program near you if you're at risk. To search by state, follow this link.