National Diabetes Month in November is a time to get the facts about this disease that affects 26 million Americans. If you don’t have diabetes, it is likely you know someone who does. Learn more about diabetes to determine the risk factors and discover how to possibly ward off this disease.

  • Diabetes Awareness MonthAbout 19 million people are diagnosed with diabetes and 7 million remain undiagnosed. Around 79 million adults in America have pre-diabetes, which means they are at risk for eventually developing the disease. When people have diabetes, blood glucose levels are above normal. Carbohydrate foods that we eat turn into sugar or glucose for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose enter our cells. People with diabetes do not have any insulin, enough insulin or their bodies cannot use the available insulin. As a result, sugar builds in their blood.
  • Around 5 percent of diagnosed cases are type 1 diabetes and 95 percent of diagnosed cases are type 2 diabetes. Pregnant women can develop gestational diabetes. The condition may cause problems for babies and mothers if it remains untreated. Up to 10 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. It usually disappears when the pregnancy is over. Gestational diabetes can put women at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
  • A person with pre-diabetes has an elevated blood glucose level. It is not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes but it is higher than normal. People with pre-diabetes are often advised to lose weight and engage in daily physical activity to avoid developing type 2 diabetes. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being overweight, engaging in physical activity less than two or three times weekly and being 45 years of age or older. Other risk factors include a family history of type 2 diabetes and birthing a baby that weighs over 9 pounds.
  • Diabetes can lead to serious health issues including stroke, heart disease and kidney failure as well as blindness. Numbness may occur in extremities such as the fingers, toes, legs or feet. People with diabetes are advised to remove their shoes during regular medical examinations to get their feet examined. They should also check their own legs and feet for cuts, callouses and other skin issues that could lead to serious infections and other problems. People with diabetes should never go barefoot either indoors or outdoors.
  • The key to remaining healthy with diabetes is to maintain stable blood sugar levels. People with diabetes should eat a diet that includes whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats and fish as well as plenty of vegetables and fruits. Sugary foods should be strictly limited. Eating salty, pre-packaged foods can increase the risk of hypertension and heart problems. People with diabetes should use a blood glucose meter one or more times each day to test their blood sugar levels. Extreme highs and lows should be reported to a medical professional right away. Always have glucose tablets available to help combat the lows.
  • Insulin and certain medications are used to treat diabetes along with life style changes. People with diabetes might be able to avoid taking medication and/or insulin with these lifestyle changes. You can help ward off diabetes if you lose just 5 percent of your body weight and exercise 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes. Choose healthy foods and get a medical checkup each year. Discuss your concerns with a doctor, especially if your family has a history of type 2 diabetes. Consider working with a nutritionist, physical therapist or diabetic nurse practitioner to learn more about diabetes and make essential lifestyle changes.

National Diabetes Month is a time to raise awareness about this disease that affects millions of Americans. Knowledge is power when it comes to diabetes. Learning more about diabetes makes it possible to help your loved ones and yourself combat this disease.