Wednesday, November 7, 2012

American Diabetes Month

gestational diabetes
People with diabetes can still
enjoy the holiday while
cutting down.

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has had to watch what she eats every day. The Thanksgiving holiday is a reminder of how diabetics can’t overindulge. My grandmother has wonderful discipline, indulging in a very small amount of sweets, and always ensuring that she eats on schedule to keep her blood sugar in check. I know my grandma is just one of many people with diabetes – and each person’s story is different.

I had a colleague whose daughter has diabetes. I remember times where the young girl forgot to bring her insulin to school, so my coworker would have to drive the medicine over to the school. This additional health responsibility can add stress to an already busy lifestyle. American Diabetes Month is a great time to recognize those American diabetes patients and their caregivers and bring greater awareness to the disease.

What Is Diabetes?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines diabetes as “the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy.” To make a long story short, the body counts on the pancreas to produce the hormone insulin so that the glucose created by the food we eat can get into our cells to be used as energy. When someone has diabetes, the body struggles to make enough insulin or to use it properly. The blood then becomes overloaded with the sugar that is produced whenever we eat.

The three major types of diabetes include:
  • Type 1 diabetes (juvenile-onset diabetes)
  • Type 2 diabetes (late-onset diabetes) 
  • Gestational diabetes mellitus (carbohydrate intolerance).
Having diabetes is no small matter. Diabetes complications can include a number of very serious health conditions, including blindness, heart disease, stroke, and even amputations of the lower extremities. Those with diabetes need to have regular checkups to monitor various health conditions, paying close attention to their feet. Early detection and treatment of diabetic foot ulcers can help to reduce the chances of amputation due to diabetes.

Some other complications of diabetes include high blood pressure, kidney failure, and nervous system disease. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of many of these health issues. According to the American Diabetes Association, “diabetes was listed as the underlying cause on 71,382 death certificates and was listed as a contributing factor on an additional 160,022 death certificates” in the year 2007 alone.

Diabetes Risk Factors

diabetes diagnosis
This photo from MCT News Service
shows people exercising even in the
colder months.
A diabetes diagnosis becomes more likely if certain risk factors are present. The American Diabetes Association reports that the most common risk factors for diabetes include being overweight, exercising fewer than three times per week, and being over 45 years of age. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a family history (parent, brother or sister with diabetes) are also risk factors for diabetes.

People of African American, Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American, or Pacific Islander background may also have an elevated risk of getting a diagnosis of diabetes during their lifetime. If you have additional questions about your own risk for diabetes, be sure to speak with your primary care physician the next time you are at the doctor’s office.

You might be able to avoid, or at least delay, diabetes by eating a healthy and balanced diet that is not too high in sugars and sweets and by getting adequate exercise. Watching your weight, controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol, and staying active can do wonders for your health in general, but they have been shown to reduce the chances of getting type 2 diabetes. Our Family Wize articles Feeding Type 2 Diabetes and Type 1 Diabetes - Snack Helps have great tips on controlling diet.

Educational Resources Online for Diabetes

If you are an American with diabetes, or know someone who is, you can find a lot of helpful resources online to help you learn all about diabetes. You can stay up to date on diabetes news by checking out the following key diabetes organizations:
The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) brings together health care professionals with the goal of helping people with diabetes to learn about and manage diabetes. According to the AADE, Medicare and some private insurance plans cover diabetes education.

To keep your diet fresh and delicious, or to help you make a special meal or treat for someone with diabetes, you might want to browse through some diabetic recipes online. Find the best ingredients to enjoy and those to avoid with tips from the American Diabetes Association. Then you can browse many diabetes-friendly recipes at Allrecipes.comMayo Clinic, and Diabetic Living.

November is American Diabetes Month, and it's a great time to raise awareness of programs and other resources that can help put a stop to diabetes. Diabetes is a lifestyle change, not just for the patient, but for the entire family as well. Be sure to do some research to make the transition easier, and meet with your doctor about any outstanding questions you may have.

Kathryn M. D’Imperio
Contributing Writer


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