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November is National Diabetes Month

Sierra Ditto Dietetic Intern Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

Diabetes affects over 30 million Americans. In fact, every year over one million Americans are diagnosed. In addition, many more people who have diabetes go undiagnosed. Since November is National Diabetes month, I am going to give a brief insight on the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, daily management and support, and prevention of type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes
Nearly 5% of Americans have type 1 diabetes. While many believe type 1 diabetes only occurs in children, it can happen at any age. In fact, more adults have type 1 diabetes than children do. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the cells of the pancreas, keeping it from producing the hormone insulin. Insulin is important because it allows our bodies to take glucose from the bloodstream into the cells to give us energy for daily living! Glucose comes from carbohydrates in our diet. When we eat carbohydrates, such as grains, sugar, fruit, and dairy, our bodies break them down into glucose. Insulin is then released from the pancreas to take the glucose from the bloodstream to our cells to use for energy. Because insulin is not produced in people with type 1, they must use insulin injections to control their blood sugar.

Type 2 Diabetes
On the other hand, type 2 diabetes is much more prevalent and can often be prevented. People with type 2 diabetes have high blood glucose levels due to “insulin resistance”. Insulin resistance occurs when we fail to control the amount and type of carbohydrates we put in our bodies throughout the day. What happens in insulin resistance is the blood glucose levels are extremely high, and at first, the pancreas tries to make up for it by producing more insulin. However, after a while the pancreas can no longer keep up with maintaining normal blood glucose levels which leads to resistance. Therefore, in order to control type 2 diabetes, people have to make lifestyle changes to help keep blood glucose levels normal. Besides dietary changes, medication is available to help manage diabetes.

Management and Prevention

Managing both types of diabetes can be challenging and overwhelming at times. However, I encourage anyone with either type of diabetes to become educated not only on managing diabetes in general but becoming familiar with YOUR diabetes and how your body works. We are all different and our bodies react differently. In addition, if you do not have diabetes but know a friend or family member who does, be supportive and engage in understanding their diabetes! Having a great support system can tremendously help someone with diabetes stay on track with their management. Lack of proper management can cause serious health consequences, such as heart disease, nerve disease, kidney disease, vision problems/loss, as well as other complications.

Although some populations have a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes than others, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a well-balanced diet, and engaging in regular physical activity can go a long way in reducing the chances of developing diabetes! Are you at risk? Take the test!

University of Florida Extension offers a course called Take Charge of Your Diabetes (TCYD). It is an in-depth extension-based, collaborative educational program targeted to adults with type 2 diabetes. The program is designed to improve blood glucose control and reduce long-term health risks of persons with diabetes by providing the information and motivation they need to adopt positive behavior changes. Class topics will include information on the types of diabetes, blood glucose monitoring, standards of medical care, medications, cardiovascular disease, nutrition management, carbohydrate counting, physical activity, sick day management, and foot care. Three health assessments (weight and blood pressure measurements) are included.

For more information on the management of diabetes, check out the American Diabetes Association at the following link: Diabetes