Did you know that November is National Diabetes Month? This month serves as a time to raise awareness about diabetes, and this year’s focus is on prediabetes and preventing diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how a person’s body turns food into energy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 34 million people in the United States have diabetes. That is more than 10% of the population! Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and the number one cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and adult blindness. The number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the past 20 years, making it an epidemic. There is currently no cure.
To understand how diabetes affects the body it is important to understand how blood sugar, or glucose, is used in the body. Glucose is a source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and other tissues. With the help of insulin, a hormone that converts food into energy, the glucose is absorbed into the cells. When a person has diabetes, insulin is either not produced or used improperly by the body. As a result, glucose builds up in the bloodstream and blood sugar levels rise. Over time, this leads to other serious health conditions such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
There are three main types of diabetes – Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational diabetes:
People with type 1 diabetes cannot make their own insulin. Although it is usually diagnosed in children and teens, type 1 diabetes can affect anyone at any age. Symptoms often develop quickly and daily injections of insulin are required for survival. Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes. Life with Type 1 diabetes is a constant balancing act. Check out the Blue Balloon Challenge to learn more about raising awareness of how difficult it is to balance the ups and downs of life with type 1 diabetes.
With Type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t use its insulin properly leading to high blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is normally diagnosed in adults but, recently, more children and teens are being diagnosed as well. The symptoms develop over many years and are often hard to spot. Some symptoms include being very thirsty, having blurry vision, numb or tingling hands and feet, and getting sick more often. Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented through a healthy lifestyle. Approximately 90% to 95% of diabetics have type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women with no history of diabetes. Although it typically goes away once the baby is born, it does put the mother and child at risk for health problems during the pregnancy. It also increases the future risk of developing type 2 diabetes for both the mother and child. Gestational diabetes generally doesn’t have any symptoms so doctors regularly test for it.
Most people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes had prediabetes first. Prediabetes is diagnosed when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. In the United States, 1 in 3 adults have prediabetes. Most are not aware that they even have it. The good news is that prediabetes is reversable. Taking small steps such as losing weight, eating healthy food, and keeping active – all activities that Vitality incentivizes – can reverse prediabetes and greatly reduce the risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Some people are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Some risk factors include being overweight or obese, being over 40, smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, not exercising regularly, or having a family history of diabetes. Certain medical conditions can also increase the risk for developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. These include having gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or cardiovascular disease.
If you suspect that you may have prediabetes or diabetes, talk to your doctor. You can also check out the following websites for more information:
- American Diabetes Association – https://www.diabetes.org/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – https://www.niddk.nih.gov/
Tara Brown, the Director of Tax for Vitality Group, lives with Type 2 diabetes and regularly participates in fundraisers for the American Diabetes Association. Tara and her husband enjoy traveling the world together, watching cooking videos on YouTube, and checking out local brew pubs and distilleries. Most weekends you can find her out hiking the Fox River trail or spending time with friends and family.