Diabetes is a disease that is becoming an ever growing health problem in our country. Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have been diagnosed with the disease with another 79 million Americans being at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
The month of November is American Diabetes Month®, a month dedicated to raising awareness about diabetes. The American Diabetes Association has designed programs for this month that will focus the nation’s attention on the health issues related to diabetes and bring attention to exactly how many people are affected by this disease.
In an effort to help raise awareness, it is important to understand what diabetes is and the affects it has on your body. In general, diabetes is a disease in which there is too much sugar in the blood. Insulin, the hormone associated with diabetes, is responsible for lowering your blood sugar by carrying the glucose derived from the food you eat into your cells to be used for energy. When the glucose in your blood builds up, it results in a condition known as hyperglycemia.
There are two reasons as to why this could happen: the body does not produce insulin, as in type 1 diabetes, or your body does not respond correctly to insulin or the insulin is not working properly (insulin resistance), as in type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and young adults and accounts for only 5% of the people who have diabetes. This form of the disease is an autoimmune condition in which your own body had destroyed the cells that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent and accounts for 95% of people diagnosed with diabetes. Some of the risk factors associated with developing type 2 diabetes include being overweight, not exercising regularly, high blood pressure, low HDL, also known as “good” cholesterol and/or high levels of triglycerides. Though type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in adulthood, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in children is increasing due to higher rates of childhood obesity.
There are a number of health risks associated with diabetes. Those with diabetes are at a greater risk of having a heart attack as a result of higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure and obesity. Problems related to vision, oral health and kidney damage have all been linked to diabetes. However, many of these health issues can be prevented by controlling your blood glucose, eating healthy, exercising and frequently visiting your health care provider to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
Diabetes is becoming one of the most problematic conditions in relation to health and nutrition. If you or someone you know has diabetes or is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, take this month to bring awareness to those who are unfamiliar with this disease. The more knowledge you have, the more likely you are to take preventative measures to help keep yourself healthy!
Your Turn to Take Action: How will you bring awareness to your community about the health risks associated with diabetes?