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What You Need to Know for Diabetes Awareness Month

This November, we’re honoring National Diabetes Awareness Month by shedding some light on some important things to know about the chronic disease — from tips and tricks to lesser-known facts and more. Read on to learn more about the condition that affects close to 10% of the U.S. population. 

The Basics

The most important distinction to understand is that there are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 occurs when the body attacks itself and no longer produces enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that the body needs to process glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream and thus provide energy. Type 1 diabetes can happen at any age and the CDC estimates that nearly 1.6 million Americans are currently diagnosed. 

Type 2 diabetes is even more common than Type 1. In these cases, insulin may still be produced by the body, but it isn’t used properly. There are varying ways that Type 2 can present and each person will need to work with their doctor to fully understand the scope of how their diabetes affects their bodies and day to day lifestyle.  

In addition to these two main categories, there are a number of other forms of diabetes, including gestational diabetes for pregnant women. You can also be diagnosed with prediabetes, where blood sugar levels are higher than normal and could put you at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. 

For all types of diabetes, you can manage the disease through lifestyle modifications and/or prescribed medications.

Living with Diabetes

Once diagnosed with diabetes, it will be important to follow your doctor’s recommendations to get the most personalized solution. Here are a few common practices for managing diabetes:  

Counting Carbs — Carbohydrates have the greatest impact on blood sugar levels in the body. Carbohydrates are foods that turn to sugar in your body. It is important that every snack and meal include the right amount of carbohydrates.  Monitoring the amount of carbohydrates you eat can help you control your blood sugar. 

Checking Blood Sugar — Using a special meter to show how much sugar is in your blood is important. It can help you know whether your blood sugar is in a healthy range and also help show if the lifestyle changes you’ve made are working.  It is a good idea to keep a log (or list) of your blood sugar results and bring it with you when you go to your doctor’s visit. 

Exercise—Did you know that exercise helps to lower your blood sugar for 24 hours? Even just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least 5 days each week can help get your lifestyle on track and be a key part of your treatment plan.  Talk to your doctor first before beginning a new exercise program. 

Eating Healthy — Making better food choices can make a big difference in helping your blood sugar improve. This means reaching for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead of options with high fat or junk food and carbs.  It also means skipping sugary drinks and drinking water or diet drinks instead.

Taking Medicine – There are many different kinds of pills or injections that can help to lower your blood sugar. Your doctor will order what is best for you. It is important to take them as directed.

Taking Insulin — If your body can’t create the insulin it needs, you will need to replace it another way. There are many options to consider with your doctor, including pumps, pens, and syringe administration.

These are just a few of the most frequently recommended treatment options. It’s important to stick to the personalized plan you create with your doctor. If you need additional support, consider taking a diabetes education class to give you more details about healthy eating and tips for helping lower your blood sugar. You can also join a diabetes support group where you can meet others going through a similar experience and work toward healthier lifestyles together.

Surprising Statistics

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases among Americans. Because of this, there is a lot of information and statistics available that can help paint a bigger picture.  

 For example, did you know that adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes? Over time, the effects of glucose in the bloodstream can damage the blood vessels and nerves attached to the heart and throughout the entire body.  

 Diabetes is also a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, and limb amputation. Luckily, proper care and consistent treatment can not only help manage diabetes but also prevents this additional damage.  

 It is estimated that over 20% of individuals with diabetes are still undiagnosed, highlighting the importance of early detection. Up to 35% of the U.S. population is at risk for prediabetes and should be making regular visits to their doctor at least every year to monitor the situation and try to prevent blood sugar from getting high enough to become Type 2 diabetes.

 If you want to learn more about diabetes, connect with us during our Diabetes Webinar this month. ​ 

If you would like to learn more about taking care of yourself and managing your diabetes, please contact the Center for Diabetes Education at 301-609-5444 or visit our website.

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