Diabetes affects millions of Americans every single day. According to the CDC, around 1.5 million Americans learn they have diabetes each year.
American Diabetes Month is held every year in November to raise awareness and help people living with this illness. Events and classes are held to teach people about diabetes, answer questions, and help people learn to prevent or manage diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
“Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.”
What does that mean?
Our bodies turn much of the food we eat into different types of sugars. Normally, when this happens, and our bodies recognise that our sugar levels have gone up, the pancreas will produce insulin which let’s our bodies use that sugar for energy.
But, if you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use it as well as it should.
This can be dangerous because, over time, having too much sugar in our blood can lead to complications like heart disease, kidney disease, and vision problems.
Types of Diabetes
There are two types of Diabetes that anyone can develop at any age.
- Type 1 Diabetes: In type 1 diabetes (this type used to be called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes) the body produces little to no insulin. It’s important to know that anyone can develop type 1 diabetes at any age.
You can learn more about type 1 diabetes, including risk factors, symptoms, and treatment, here.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 used to be known as adult-onset Diabetes. However, type 2 diabetes is becoming more common in children and teens, especially in the US. In this type of diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin, and the body does not respond to the insulin that is made as well as it should.
You can learn more about type 2 diabetes, including risk factors, symptoms, and treatment, here.
What Causes Diabetes?
Many people think that eating too much sugar causes diabetes. However, there are many risk factors that can make someone more likely to develop diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, these include:
- Genetics and family history
- Environmental factors
- Race or ethnicity
- Certain medical conditions like prediabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
How to Prevent Diabetes
Although family history plays a big role, there are many steps you can take to lower your chances of getting diabetes. According to Harvard's School of Public Health, these include:
- Controlling your weight
- Getting exercise
- Eating a balanced, healthy diet
- Managing stress
- Quitting smoking
Of course, anyone can develop diabetes, even those who are healthy and active. So, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and talk to your doctor about anything that concerns you!
How can American Diabetes Month Help?
Every year during American Diabetes Month, the American Diabetes Association chooses a theme to help focus their campaign. For instance, in 2019, the theme was "Count Me In." The focus of that theme was to help people learn about the risk factors of diabetes and to help them make healthy changes in their life.
Celebrating American Diabetes Month 2021
American Diabetes Month 2021 will focus on prediabetes and making healthy changes. Prediabetes is the stage of the disease before diabetes actually develops. And the good news is, that for many, it is easily reversible at this stage.
Individuals with prediabetes have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal. THis is measured with a blood test called A1C. This test gives doctors an average of your blood sugar levels over the last 2-3 months.
The CDC states people with prediabetes have an A1C level of 5.7 to 6.4.
Although many people won't have symptoms of prediabetes, some might have symptoms of actual diabetes. According to the ADA, these symptoms can include:
- Being really tired
- Losing a lot of weight
- Being hungry all the time
- Being thirsty all the time
- Having to urinate constantly
If you or a loved one has these symptoms, be sure to see your doctor.
During American Diabetes Month 2021, you can learn about prediabetes and take steps to help keep your blood sugar levels normal, or get them back to normal!
What Can You Do to Help?
Diabetes can have serious, long-lasting effects on those living with it and their loved ones. And, while there is no cure, medication and lifestyle changes can help people with diabetes feel better and live longer, healthier lives.
With the help of American Diabetes Month 2021, you and your loved ones can help spread awareness on diabetes and join the fight to end it for good.