November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

By Janessa Williamson, RN - Health Educator, Fayette Co. Public Health

Did you know that November is National Diabetes Month? Most of us have a loved one that has been diagnosed with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2018, 10.5% of the population had diabetes. It goes without saying that statistic is overwhelmingly high. So, what exactly is diabetes?

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases defines diabetes as “a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high.” They also go on to state, “Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.” There is no cure for diabetes.

There are several types of diabetes including:

Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed when your body does not make insulin. The immune system has attacked the cells that make insulin. This type is typically diagnosed in children and younger adults, but can appear at any age. Type 1 requires insulin on a daily basis.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common and is caused when your body does not make or use insulin well. This type can develop at any age but more often occurs in middle-aged and older adults.

Gestational diabetes develops sometimes when a woman is pregnant. Many times, once the baby is born, the diabetes goes away, but the mother has an increased risk of developing type 2 later in life.

Also, more than 1 in 3 Americans have prediabetes-where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes raises your risk for type 2 in the future.

There are many potential signs and symptoms of diabetes. Some of these include increased thirst, extreme hunger, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, slow healing sores, frequent infections, blurred vision, and the presence of ketones in the urine.

So, who is at risk for type 2?

– People 45 years and older

– Having a family history of diabetes

– Being overweight

– Having a sedentary lifestyle

– Having certain health problems such as high blood pressure

Being diagnosed with diabetes can also increase your risk of health problems such as:

– Heart and kidney disease

– Stroke

– Eye problems

– Nerve damage

– Foot problems

There are several different types of tests to help aid in the diagnosis of diabetes. The glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test is a simple blood test to indicate your average blood sugar level over the past two or three months. Your healthcare provider may also use a random blood sugar test, a fasting blood sugar test, or an oral glucose test to check levels.

Managing diabetes can be complicated but your healthcare provider will work with you to find an appropriate treatment. You will need to test your blood sugar frequently with a glucometer to check your levels. This is a simple test that requires just a drop or two of blood, usually taken from your finger. Depending on what type you have and how your body reacts, treatment may include:

– A healthy eating plan

– A physical activity routine

– Receiving insulin injections

– Taking oral medications

You can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes with certain lifestyle changes. One way is to eat a healthy balanced diet focusing on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you are not currently pregnant, you can try to lose a few extra pounds to reduce your risk. Also, aiming for 30 minutes of exercise on most days is beneficial.

For more information, visit the American Diabetes Association website at

By Janessa Williamson, RN

Health Educator, Fayette Co. Public Health