When we think of November, Thanksgiving dinners, pumpkins, and fall foliage immediately come to mind. November is also National Diabetes Awareness Month, a time dedicated to educating Americans about a disease that affects one in 10 adults in the United States — and whose prevalence is projected to to climb to a frightening one in three U.S. adults by 2050, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease that involves abnormalities in insulin production and/or sensitivity to the effects of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that’s required for cells throughout the body to be able to take up sugar from the blood stream to use for their own energy needs.
Did You Know?
- Currently, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S., accounting for 12,000 to 24,000 new cases per year
- Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death
- Diabetes is the foremost cause of kidney failure, accounting for 44 percent of new cases in 2005.
- In number terms, it affects 23.6 million children and adults which is 7.8 percent of the total population.
- 57 million Americans have a condition called “pre-diabetes” that can develop into full-fledged Diabetes unless diet and exercise-related lifestyle changes are made.
Because obesity is a risk factor for developing Diabetes, as our nation’s collective weight continues to increase, so do incidence rates of Diabetes. Other complications associated with diabetes include visual impairment, nerve damage, poor circulation in the hands and feet that may lead to amputations, sexual dysfunction and skin issues. Diabetes can also put you at a higher risk for heart disease and bone and joint disorders.
Types of Diabetes: Though Diabetes Mellitus is the general name for the disease, there are actually three different types of this metabolic disorder.
Diabetes Type 1, formerly called “juvenile diabetes” or “insulin dependent diabetes,” is usually diagnosed in children, teenagers or young adults, but can also occur later in life. Diabetes Type 1 only accounts for about 5% of all Diabetes cases. This type of Diabetes is an autoimmune disease of the pancreas, where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells responsible for making insulin. People with Type 1 Diabetes must take insulin shots or wear an insulin pump to substitute for the missing insulin from their pancreas.
Diabetes Type 2, the most common form among Americans, is also referred to as “noninsulin dependent diabetes,” or “adult onset” Diabetes, though the latter term is misleading since its prevalence is on the rise among children. In this form, the pancreas still produces insulin, however insulin resistance occurs causing glucose to accumulate in the blood rather than get taken up by the cells. People at risk for type 2 diabetes include those who are overweight or obese, inactive, people with family history, low HDL, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, women who had Gestational Diabetes during pregnancy, or who had a baby weighing 9 lbs or more at birth, and certain racial and ethnic groups.
Gestational Diabetes occurs in women who are pregnant. About 3 – 10% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. It usually only spans the length of pregnancy, though can put women at risk for developing diabetes later in life.
Symptoms of Diabetes
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Unusual thirst
- Involuntary weight loss
- Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infection
- Tingling or numbness in hands and feet.
- Maintaining a healthy weight and waist circumference (<40″ for men and <35″ for women)
- Eating a healthy balanced diet full of fiber-rich and magnesium-rich foods like whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables (especially the leafy green kind).
- Minimizing intake of trans and saturated fats such as those found in cheese, whole milk, red meat, fast foods, margarine and commercially-baked goods
- Not smoking
- And some preliminary research suggests that breastfeeding children for at least one month may reduce a woman’s risk of developing Diabetes later in life.
To learn more about diabetes, please visit the American Diabetes Association website.