NOVEMBER IS NATIONAL DIABETES MONTH
November is National Diabetes Month and a time to learn as much as possible about this chronic disease. The incidence of diabetes is growing, making early detection and treatment so important. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a new individual living in the United States is diagnosed with diabetes every 21 seconds.
The number of medication types, delivery systems, and monitoring devices has also grown. This has helped to make blood sugar management easier and more accurate, leading to fewer diabetes complications, but much more needs to be done. More education is needed to increase awareness of the risk factors for diabetes and the benefits of early screening and lifestyle changes.
The Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES) celebrates the first week of November as National Diabetes Education Week recognizing the work and dedication of diabetes educators. They are a network of nurses, dietitians, and diabetes specialists all working to educate and improve the lives of persons with diabetes by providing the tools and ongoing support they need.
LEARN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
TYPES OF DIABETES
Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas doesn’t produce any or enough insulin to effectively lower blood sugar and provide energy to cells. Most people with type 1 diabetes require insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the insulin produced by the body is ineffective and cells are resistant to its actions. People with type 2 diabetes may need oral medication and/or insulin injections. Gestational diabetes occurs when blood sugars are elevated during pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes usually require insulin injections and are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugars are elevated but below levels set for diagnosing diabetes.
Obesity is the leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes and for the development
of heart disease. It’s defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than
30. BMI is a measure of body fat and is based on height and weight. The
higher the BMI, the greater the risk for diabetes. The ADA has a BMIcalculator available on its website.
DIABETES RISK FACTORS
Other risk factors include:
-Over age 35
-Previous gestational diabetes
-Family history of diabetes
-American Indian, Black or African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander ethnicities
-Prior diagnosis of prediabetes
-Presence of one or more of these symptoms:
numbness or tingling in hands or feet
unexplained weight loss
SCREENING FOR DIABETES
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends anyone over the age of 18 with a BMI greater than 25, and one additional risk factor for diabetes, be screened.
Even without risk factors, the ADA suggests diabetes screening should be part of annual exams for everyone over the age of 45.
The following chart shows the test results for diagnosing prediabetes and diabetes:
1. A1C measures average blood sugar over the past 3 months.
2. Measures blood glucose after fasting for at least 8 hours.
3. Measures blood glucose 2 hours after drinking a liquid high in sugar.
4. Measures blood glucose at any random time, usually in the presence of symptoms.
BEHAVIOR AND LIFESTYLE CHANGES
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, it’s common to feel overwhelmed and anxious about your health. You will need to make some lifestyle changes and possibly start taking medication. Take it slowly and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember, while you may not feel “sick” it is very important to take the diagnosis seriously. Poor blood sugar control over time can result in diabetes complications including kidney disease, heart disease, poor circulation, and decreased vision and hearing.
WEIGHT LOSS AND HEALTHY EATING
A healthy diet is a necessary part of living with diabetes. There is no ideal diabetes diet, but one that has the right mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for you. Calorie levels will depend on weight goals, activity levels, and personal preferences.
An easy place to start is with the Diabetes Plate Method found on the ADA website. It’s a simple guide encouraging a large portion of non-starchy vegetables, and smaller servings of protein and carbohydrate foods.
A Registered Dietitian (RD) can help with more detailed and individualized meal planning. The RD can also assist with weight loss and help set goals that are measurable and achievable. Even a 5% weight loss is enough to see an improvement in blood glucose levels.
INCREASE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Being physically active is an important way to stay healthy and improve blood glucose levels. Exercise burns calories, promotes weight loss, and improves insulin sensitivity.
Simply being less sedentary is a good place to start. Begin by sitting less and walking more. Get up from your desk or computer and stretch. Park further from the door and pass up the elevator for the stairs.
The ADA suggests 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. Finding an enjoyable exercise makes it easier to commit to, and less of a chore. And including a family member or friend may help keep you motivated.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Taking care of your mental health is essential. Diabetes is a lot to manage and can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and anger. Diabetes distress can lead to poor decisions about your care such as missing doctor appointments, not taking prescribed medications, or knowingly choosing unhealthy foods. Recognize these signs of distress and ask for help.
-Be kind to yourself, and know that no one is perfect at managing their blood sugars.
-Join a support group. It helps you feel less alone and validates your feelings.
-De-stress with some “me time” once a week.
-Lean on your healthcare team for support.
November is National Diabetes Month. Take the time to learn as much as you can about the disease, as understanding your risks, and being aware of the symptoms, are key to early diagnosis and treatment.
Don’t wait to adopt healthy lifestyle changes, to prevent or delay the diagnosis of diabetes, as these are also ways to lower the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer.
If you would like more information on lowering your risk of diabetes with diet and lifestyle changes, make an appointment with one of our experienced registered dietitians. They can answer your questions and help devise a plan that works for you. Call today 240-449-3094
Visit the ADA website, https://diabetes.org/ for more information on diabetes and ways to get involved.