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November is Diabetes Awareness Month!

Awareness, Prevention, Detection, and Management of Diabetes

Written by a Life University Dietetic Intern

With November being Diabetes Awareness Month, and November 14th being World Diabetes Day, there’s no better time than now to educate yourself on diabetes and understand the steps you can take towards prevention. Every year, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) comes up with a theme for November, with this year being focused on “The Big Step Up.” With 34.2 million Americans having diabetes, and even more people being unaware that they are at high risk, everyone must “step up” and take action towards helping to reduce the effects of diabetes on our population.

Throughout the November campaign, each week is dedicated to understanding the different realms of diabetes, including awareness, detection, and management. Week one (November 1st – 7th) is all about “stepping up awareness” and educating yourself on the different types of diabetes.

  • Prediabetes: A condition characterized by higher than normal blood sugar levels, but not high enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. This is considered a transition step to Type 2 diabetes that can be prevented.
  • Type 1 Diabetes: Autoimmune disease than causes pancreas to either make no or too little insulin. It can’t be prevented through diet or lifestyle, and often begins in childhood.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: Pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or the body doesn’t use the insulin being made. Can be prevented or delayed with diet and exercise.
  • Gestational Diabetes: The body doesn’t make enough insulin during pregnancy, but normally goes away after the baby is born. However, this type of diabetes results in a greater risk of Type 2 diabetes later in life.

The second week (November 8th – 14th) is focused on “stepping up detection” which involves knowing the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes and the steps you can take to prevent the disease. You are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes if you are/have:

  • Prediabetes
  • Overweight
  • 45 years or older
  • Family member with Type 2 Diabetes
  • Physically active less than 3 times per week
  • Have ever had diabetes during pregnancy, also known as gestational diabetes
  • African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native

The ADA’s website provides a very helpful 60-second risk assessment for Type 2 diabetes that anyone can take. One of the first steps in preventing Type 2 diabetes is knowing your personal risk factors and making appropriate lifestyle changes. As far as prevention goes, there are several simple diet and exercise strategies that you can incorporate into your everyday routine. Practice eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains versus refined grains, lean protein, and limiting sources of added sugar. Aim to exercise for at least 150 minutes per week and set a personal goal for a small amount of weight loss (5 to 7% of your current body weight) since obesity is one of the leading risk factors for diabetes. Lastly, consider working with a registered dietitian to help your changes become permanent lifestyle alterations instead of temporary habits.

The third week (November 15th – 21st) in the Diabetes Awareness Month campaign is titled “Step up Management” and consists of providing helpful resources and techniques to individuals living with diabetes. An example of a tool that is available to help guide building a balanced plate for blood sugar management is the ADA’s Diabetes Plate Method. It discusses incorporating nonstarchy vegetables as half of your plate, lean protein foods as a quarter of your plate, and the other quarter to be filled with carbohydrate foods. Following the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes consuming fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limiting dairy and meat, has also shown promise in helping control blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes.

“Step Up and Thrive” is the theme for the fourth and final week (November 22nd – 28th) of Diabetes Awareness Month. It is comprised of encouraging you to become an advocate for advancements in diabetic care. This could include standing up for better access to health care and insulin affordability for diabetic patients. You could also use your voice to increase funding for diabetes research and education/management programs.

Whether you are reading this blog post as a newly diagnosed diabetic, concerned family member, caregiver, or out of general curiosity, you should feel proud of yourself for taking the initiative to learn more about this condition. Change will only occur when everyone does their part to pitch in and alter the current reality of diabetes around the world.

Helpful Links and References:

 Trivia Questions!

1. More than 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. How many of them don’t know that they have it?

A) 1 in 10

B) 1 in 7

C) 1 in 5

D) 1 in 3

2. Diabetes is the ____ leading cause of death in the U.S.

A) 1st

B) 3rd

C) 5th

D) 7th

3. True or False: Type 1 diabetes accounts for approximately 90 to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. False

4. True or False: Diabetes is not caused just by eating too much sugar. True

5. High blood sugar can lead to issues with which of the following?

A) Vision

B) Sensation

C) Hearing

D) All of the above

Answers: 1. C 2. D 3. False 4. True 5. D

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