November is National Diabetes Month. The goals are to (1) raise awareness about the risk factors for diabetes and (2) encourage people to make lifestyle changes.
These goals have become even more urgent since there is an alarming rise in the number of Americans with diabetes. The new figures from a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control show that cases of diabetes and prediabetes continue to rise among all ages and ethnic groups.
If this trend continues, 1 in 5 Americans will have full-blown diabetes by 2025, and 1 in 3 by 2050.
Dr. Ann Allbright, director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, warns that we cannot sustain this trajectory – the devastating price is too high for our families, our healthcare system, our workforce, and our nation.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how the body uses blood sugar – glucose – which is an essential, important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues, as well as the main source of fuel for the brain. Insulin, which is a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get to the cells to be used for energy. If the body does not make enough, or any, insulin or does not use insulin well, then glucose stays in the blood and does not reach the cells in the body. Diabetes occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood (high blood sugar).
More than 1 in 3 Americans have prediabetes (33.9% of the U.S. population)
The report states that 84 million Americans – more than 1 in 3 – have prediabetes: blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough yet to be type 2 diabetes. Without lifestyle changes, people with prediabetes are very likely to progress to type 2 diabetes. CAUTION: If you have prediabetes, the damage of diabetes, specifically to your heart, blood vessels and kidneys, might already be starting! However, making changes NOW can make a difference!
People who are at risk for type 2 diabetes can cut their risk in HALF simply by eating healthy foods, avoiding tobacco use, increasing physical activity, and losing weight. These changes also significantly improve health for those already diagnosed with the disease.
Type 1 diabetes: 1.25 million American children and adults (about 5% of those diagnosed with diabetes)
In type 1, your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. This can happen over a few weeks, months or years. When enough of the cells are gone, your pancreas makes little or no insulin and blood glucose becomes dangerously high. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin by injection with a syringe, an insulin pen, or an insulin pump every day to stay alive. Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and young adults, however, it can appear at any age.
Type 2 diabetes: 29 million + Americans (9.4% of the U.S. population)
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes.
In type 2 diabetes, your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, the pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time your pancreas isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose levels normal. Type 2 usually gets worse over time. Even if you don’t need to take medications at first, you might need to do so later on.
Some groups have a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes than others. Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as the aged population.
Up to 70% of type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
Scientists do not know the exact cause of type 2 diabetes. However, development of type 2 diabetes has been associated with several risk factors. These risk factors include:
- History of hyperglycemia, prediabetes and/or gestational diabetes (GDM)
- Race and ethnicity
- High blood pressure
- Overweight and obesity
- Physical inactivity
- Family history
- Abnormal cholesterol
Treatments for type 2 diabetes
The two goals of diabetes treatment are to make sure you feel well day to day and to prevent or delay long-term health problems. The best way to reach those goals is by:
- Taking medications, if your doctor prescribes them.
- Planning healthy, balanced meals – choosing what, how much, and when to eat.
- Being physically active.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Avoiding tobacco use.
Common consequences of diabetes
Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.
- Adults with diabetes have a two- to three-fold increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- Women with type 2 diabetes are 10 times more likely to have heart disease than women without type 2 diabetes.
- Neuropathy (nerve damage) in the feet, combined with reduced blood flow, increases the chance of foot ulcers, infection and eventual need for limb amputation.
- Diabetic retinopathy is a key cause of blindness and occurs as a result of long-term accumulated damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. 2.6% of global blindness can be attributed to diabetes.
- Deaths – diabetes remains the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.
Cost of Diabetes (2013):
- Total cost: $245 billion
- Direct medical costs – $176 billion
- Reduced productivity – $69 billion
- Average medical expenditures for those with diagnosed diabetes are 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes.
World Diabetes Day – November 14 (Globally, every 6 seconds, a person dies from diabetes.)
Created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation, the goal of World Diabetes Day is to be the global driver to promote the importance of taking coordinated and concerted actions to confront diabetes as a critical global health issue. World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations Day in 2006.
Each year, the International Diabetes Foundation chooses a theme for the year-long campaign for World Diabetes Day that reflects the realities of dealing with a chronic condition. The theme for 2017 is “Women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future.” This theme will promote the importance of affordable and equitable access to care and education for all women to better manage their diabetes and improve their health outcomes.
Ways to observe National Diabetes Month
- Participate in a diabetes-related event (ADA, JDRF) – participate in a walkathon, health fair, run or bike ride.
- Seek out special Diabetes Month sales or other offers.
- Observe World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14 – find events at www.idf.org.
- Learn something new about diabetes: visit http://ndep.nih.gov, www.jdrf.org, http://www.diabetes.org, https://www.idf.org.
- Start a conversation with people you care about to make healthy lifestyle changes.
My family was thrust into the world of diabetes in 2010. We had no experience whatsoever with diabetes; we didn’t know of any family members or friends who had diabetes. As a special education teacher, I have had students with a variety of medical needs, but none with diabetes. We were clueless!
My youngest child, Mary, is a 2017 graduate of Lake Nona High School. She was in fifth grade when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on March 22, 2010. I first noticed that she looked like she had lost some weight. Truthfully, I did not think much of it at the time since she was a cheerleader and very active. I remember noticing that she also was suddenly thirsty a lot. Mary wasn’t feeling well the day before I was leaving for Camp Lejeune (North Carolina) for my Marine son’s knee surgery. She was tired, sleeping a lot, and had thrown up some – I thought she had the flu or a stomach virus! I left on Sunday and I made arrangements for someone to take her to our family doctor on Monday morning, the same day as the surgery.
I recall sitting in the family waiting room at the Naval Hospital when I got the phone call: Mary had type 1 diabetes. I was blindsided. When the surgeon came to discuss how my son’s major surgery (meniscus transplant!) had gone, the tears were rolling down my face as I tried to focus on his words, and my head was reeling from her diagnosis. I needed to be there for my son, but I was so worried about Mary and how this life-changing news was impacting her. I begged the surgeon to help get us safely on the road back to Orlando as soon as possible. We could not leave until Thursday, so I drove all night with my son in the back seat, his knee in a giant contraption, so we could get to a family appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist on Friday morning. Seriously?! This was crazy, but the focus was and is always taking care of whatever medical and emotional needs my kids face! Trials truly can build perseverance and resilience, if we let them!
This appointment was a family “training” for us to learn how to check her blood glucose (sugar), administer her insulin, identify symptoms, and monitor the carbs for her meals. My son insisted on being there for his baby sister, so we were helping him on crutches; also there – my younger son, Stephen (then just turned 18), my daughter Hannah (then just turned 15), and a family friend. We were ready, willing and determined to learn how to take care of her, but to say it was overwhelming is an understatement!
We all were mind blown to realize that this is a 24/7/365 job – there is no break or reprieve from her care. She (we) never get to relax and forget about measuring food and counting carbohydrates, finger pricks 5-8 times a day to check blood sugar, constantly factoring multiple daily insulin injections, plus the impact of stress, a cold, a sunburn on blood sugar, on and on…so many things impact daily living when you have type 1 diabetes. We have to be physicians, dietitians, personal trainers, mathematicians – while teaching Algebra 1, I actually used her formula for figuring the amount of insulin to teach using algebra in real life! That really got my students’ attention!
We learned how diabetes high blood sugar and low blood sugar impact a child in the classroom: It can cause dizziness, fatigue, blurry/impaired vision, drowsiness, headache, irritability, anxiety – all of which obviously impact the ability to concentrate and learn. This also leads to trips to the nurse, which means more time out of class, which emphasizes the need for good diabetes management for learning as well as health.
The first meal we ate out, at a place we frequently went to, we had to ask for the nutrition guide to check the carb count. When we realized the enormous number of carbs in the meal she usually got, she burst into tears realizing that she couldn’t have that, which of course ripped our hearts out. Wow.
Fast forward seven years: Mary, her siblings and I continue to learn to adjust to her life with diabetes. She was hospitalized for the first time (she’s been really lucky!) just this past spring, due to diabetes complications from a severe stomach virus. She was hospitalized again in April during Grad Bash, with her first diabetes emergency, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), an acute, major, life-threatening complication of diabetes. She was truly blessed to have the stellar support of some Lake Nona High School teachers and chaperones who did not leave her side, caring for her at Universal Studios while I was speeding to get to her. They were AMAZING! Our ambulance ride and second stay in the ICU at Arnold Palmer Hospital was yet another new experience thanks to diabetes.
Mary and I attended our first Friends for Life Annual Conference, held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort this past July! Children with Diabetes hosts an international group of world-renowned clinicians, researchers, physicians, adults, children and families with diabetes to learn the most current information in diabetes care, attend educational sessions, and get cutting-edge diabetes management ideas. We both had the opportunity to connect with professionals but also to take part in discussion groups and connect with other families who walk in similar shoes. Mary also had the opportunity to receive a free, on-site retinal screening from a team of eye care specialists from the Institute of Ophthalmology and Visual Science from the New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers University! There also were insulin pump trials, celiac screening, and family screenings for type 1 diabetes risk factors. This was a major learning experience for us both! She found an insulin pump she wants – her doctor just ordered it, and she was to receive it on Sept. 28!
If your family is impacted by diabetes, please check out this incredible conference, to be held again at the Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, July 10-15, 2018: http://www.childrenwithdiabetes.com/activities/
Tour de Cure at Lake Nona
We have a fantastic diabetes fundraising event right here in Lake Nona!
Tour de Cure is the premier cycling fundraising event of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the nation’s leading 501(c)3 nonprofit charity that provides diabetes research, information and advocacy.
The Tour de Cure is held in 40 states nationwide to benefit the mission of the ADA: to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. The ADA funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives a voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes.
The Tour de Cure is a ride, not a race, with routes designed for everyone from the occasional rider to the experienced cyclist. This event is a unique opportunity for businesses, clubs, friends and families to come together to form teams with the vision of a life free of diabetes and all of its burdens.
The 2017 Tour de Cure was a HUGE success with more than $747,000 raised!
The 2018 Tour de Cure Lake Nona website will be opening in October. To learn more about participating here in Lake Nona, visit www.nonacycle.com or join the Nona Cycle Facebook group: http://nonahood.to/nonacycle.
Facebook: Tour de Cure (Orlando, FL) @tdcorlando
Sources/Resources: Centers for Disease Control; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; American Diabetes Association; International Diabetes Federation; JDRF.