November marks an important month in the world of healthcare. In addition to signifying the approaching holiday season – and an increase in cold and flu cases – November is American Diabetes Month. American Diabetes Month is one of the most critical health observances today. It marks dates that are set aside specifically to address diabetes in the local community.
This month is particularly important due to the rampant rate at which diabetes affects Americans today. 29.1 million people currently live with diabetes – that’s 9.3% of the population! The good news is that diabetes is often very preventable. With a little work, and some knowledge of how this disease works, you can take steps that will help work at preventing diabetes, allowing you to live a longer, healthier life.
What Is Diabetes?
“Diabetes” refers to a group of conditions in which a patient’s blood glucose levels are above normal. In a healthy individual, the body processes food and turns it into glucose – or sugar – that can easily be used as a source of energy. Normally, the body also produces insulin to help transport glucose to the cells that need it. However, in individuals with diabetes, their bodies either don’t make enough insulin, or can't use its own insulin as well as it should.
Without the insulin needed to remove it, sugar builds up in the bloodstream. Cells then cannot obtain the energy they need to properly function, and these elevated sugar levels lead to damage within the body’s blood vessels and organs. The damage can be quite severe, too. According to the C.D.C., “Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.”
What Else Do I Need To Know About Diabetes?
When it comes to diabetes, there are three key facts that everyone should take into consideration when learning about the disease:
- There are multiple types of diabetes. Cases of diabetes may be categorized as Type 1 or Type 2, depending on the nature of the disease. A big difference between them is that Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that eliminates one’s ability to produce insulin. Type 2, on the other hand, is brought on by a combination of hereditary factors and lifestyle risk factors, and it usually reduces the body’s insulin production and use.
- Pregnant women are at risk of developing diabetes. Though it usually disappears once a child is born, gestational diabetes is a major risk factor to consider during a woman’s pregnancy. If a woman develops this condition while pregnant, she is at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
- There is currently no cure for diabetes. While research is underway to try and identify a way of curing this disease altogether, currently the only options available to patients are prevention and management. Patients living with diabetes should actively work with their doctor to ensure they are taking steps to control the disease, while everyone else should actively work to prevent the development of diabetes in the first place.
What Can I Do To Prevent Diabetes?
If you are not already living with diabetes, we recommend doing three basic things to help control your chances of developing diabetes:
- Know your risk factors. Risk factors vary slightly between the three types of diabetes. Knowing and addressing your risk factors to the best of your ability for all three types is a crucial part of working to prevent diabetes. You should also report any risk factors you know of to your doctor during annual exams, so that they can make additional recommendations if necessary.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices. Many basic healthy lifestyle recommendations also help to reduce your diabetes risk. This includes exercising 30 minutes or more at least five days a week, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds (with little to no sugary drinks). Your doctor may be able to recommend more specific tips for you during a visit if you choose to work with them. Which you should, since another way you can prevent diabetes is by:
- Working with a doctor to monitor for pre-diabetes. 79 million Americans live with pre-diabetes – a condition where their blood sugar levels are elevated, but not to levels where they have developed full-blown diabetes. Monitoring for elevated glucose levels, and taking steps to control them early if needed, will go a long way in ensuring that you can prevent the development of diabetes!
Diabetes is a serious chronic illness that is causing major problems for many American patients today. If you are able, please take the time to invest in lifestyle changes to help ensure that you reduce your chances of joining this growing demographic of patients. For more information about diabetes, we recommend visiting the American Diabetes Association’s website, or contacting your doctor at Genesis Medical to review a more personalized list of diabetes prevention or management needs.