November is National Diabetes Month. Over 37 million Americans have diabetes, and 96 million adults have prediabetes. What’s more, many people don’t know they have diabetes or prediabetes. Now’s the time to educate yourself on diabetes and know your risks.
What is Diabetes?
According to the CDC, diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Your body breaks down most of the food you eat into glucose and releases it into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.
With diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use it as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. Over time, that can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision, loss and kidney disease.
There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, which is thought to be an autoimmune reaction. Approximately 5-10% of people who have diabetes have Type 1. Type 2, which develops over many years and can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes. About 90-95% of people with diabetes have Type 2. Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. This type usually goes away after giving birth, but babies born to women with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of obesity and of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
Signs & Symptoms
Some of the following can be indicative of diabetes or prediabetes. If you have any of these symptoms for more than a week, see your healthcare professional and ask if having your blood sugar tested is appropriate.
Unexplained weight loss
Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
Very dry skin
Sores that heal slowly
More infections than usual
Seek medical attention as soon as possible if in addition to any of the above symptoms you also have any of these risk factors:
Overweight or obese
45 years old or older
Family history of diabetes
Had gestational diabetes
Are from an ethnic or racial minority
Have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Resources to the Rescue
The American Diabetes Association is a great resource for those living with diabetes. From help with understanding health insurance and Medicare/Medicaid coverage to prescription assistance programs and FAQ on the condition, you can find valuable information on how to manage your diabetes at Diabetes.org.
Prepping for Prevention
Since a larger number of American adults are prediabetic, preventing Type 2 diabetes is critical. According to a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study, people can prevent getting diabetes by taking several simple steps including: keeping weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthy diet, not smoking and consuming a light to moderate amount of alcohol, which is defined as two drinks or less a day for men and one drink or less a day for women.