National Diabetes Awareness Month
November is National Diabetes Month. The month also honors the birthday of Dr. Frederick Banting, co-discoverer of insulin in 1921, on November 14. The American Diabetes Association has set the theme this month as “Take Charge of Tomorrow: Preventing Diabetes Health Problems”. Consider that while almost 30 million people (about the population of Texas) in the U.S. have some form of diabetes, one in four don’t even realize they’re walking around with the disease. National Diabetes Month is an annual event each November to boost awareness about the risk factors, symptoms, and types of diabetes.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is the inability to metabolize carbohydrates. When carbohydrates are consumed, the body breaks them down into blood glucose or blood sugar. Glucose circulates in through the body’s blood system. As glucose rises, insulin is secreted from the pancreas. The job of the insulin is to “open” the cell doors so glucose can enter the cells. There are different types of diabetes based on what part of normal carbohydrate metabolism fails.
- Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition where the pancreas makes little or no insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body “resists” the action of its insulin. This means glucose stays in the blood and isn’t used as fuel for energy.
- Gestational diabetes occurs as a result of pregnancy hormones and usually goes away at the end of the pregnancy.
- Prediabetes is when blood sugar levels are usually normal, but sometimes go to higher-than-normal levels. Prediabetes is commonly diagnosed prior to type 2 diabetes.
The greatest risk factor to developing any form of diabetes is family history. Other risk factors include:
- Viruses, bacterial infections, and/or prior auto-immune diagnoses are associated with type 1 diabetes.
- Inactive lifestyle, obesity, 45 years of age or older, cardio-metabolic syndrome, hormone imbalance, history of gestational diabetes or birth to a baby who weighed over 9 pounds, and / or steroid medication are associated with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Why do we need a whole month dedicated to Diabetes?
Consider the following from the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2022:
- A lot of people have been diagnosed with diabetes:
- 37.3 million people (about twice the population of New York) have diabetes – that’s 11.3% of the US population. 28.7 million have been diagnosed; 8.5 million people (about half the population of New York) have diabetes but don’t know it.
- Sadly, many more people have prediabetes. 96 million adults have prediabetes; 26.4 million adults 65 or older have prediabetes.
- Living with diabetes can be very expensive. In 2017 the estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes was $327 billion (about $1,000 per person in the US).
- $237 billion (about $730 per person in the US) in direct medical costs; $90 billion (about $280 per person in the US) in lost productivity
- Medical costs beyond direct medical costs was $9601 per person.
- Diabetes complications are leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes complications can affect major organs in the body. These organs include the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Having a normal blood sugar level can lower the risk of many complications.
Are you at risk of diabetes?
If you have a family history of diabetes, talk to your primary care provider about assessing your potential risk. See your risk of prediabetes by taking the CDC’s Prediabetes Risk Test.
Know the score. Take charge of your health. Prevent diabetes health problems BEFORE they start.
Learn more about diabetes at https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/index.html. NOTE: this information is available in English and Spanish.