What You Need to Know for National Diabetes Month

By: Amanda Belo


According to the CDC, approximately 30 million people in the United States have diabetes and – according to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases – nearly 84.1 million Americans 18+ have a condition called prediabetes. We know the best way to fight diabetes is through healthy habits and, considering November is National Diabetes Month, now is a great time to see how you can adopt habits that reduce your risk! Read on for what you need to know for National Diabetes Month.

Diabetes 101

In the U.S….

  • 30.3 million people have diabetes – 25% don’t know they are diabetic1
  • 84.1 million people have prediabetes – 90% don’t know they are pre-diabetic1

This disease, for some, is preventable which is why National Diabetes Month exists. Together, we can help spread awareness of the dangers, risk factors, and preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing it.


What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which the body either cannot make enough insulin or cannot use insulin well.2,3 As a result, glucose (blood sugar) levels elevate, build up in the blood, and can lead to serious health conditions.2,3 

Your body breaks down the food you eat into glucose(a.k.a. blood sugar). Insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas, allows blood sugar to enter cells so the body can use as energy. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas eventually stops making insulin because your immune system destroys cells it thinks are attacking your system.7 With type 2 diabetes there is insulin resistance, which means that your pancreas eventually cannot make enough insulin to support healthy glucose levels.7


What Types of Diabetes Are There?

Type 1 Diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes results when the body cannot make enough insulin and those it affects are insulin dependent.2,4 Previously known as Juvenile Diabetes, this autoimmune disease can affect both children and adults.2,4 There is no known prevention method.

Type 2 Diabetes:
Type 2 diabetes is when the body cannot use insulin properly – or insulin resistance.2,5 It is more common in people of color and the aged population.2,5 However, it can affect anyone at any age. Most cases can be prevented.

Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is when high blood sugar levels occur in non-diabetic pregnant women.2,6

What are the Common Symptoms of Diabetes?

  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Wounds are slow to heal
  • Blurry vision
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands or feet
  • Weight loss
  • Mood swings, confusion and difficulty concentrating


What Are the Risk Factors?

The risk factors between the different types of diabetes can vary which is one reason that National Diabetes Month is so important. Family history and genetics can both play a role in developing type 1 diabetes. Geography may also play a role. There are more incidences the further away from the equator you are. Additionally, type 1 diabetes occurs more often in children 4-7 years old and 10-14 years old.­8

Family history and age (45 years and older) also appear to be risk factors for type 2 diabetes, in addition to being overweight, being physically inactive, fat distribution (if you store fat mostly in your abdomen) and race.9  Prediabetes, gestational diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome may also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.9

Gestational diabetes risk factors include family history and personal history of prediabetes or difficulties with pregnancy and birth. Being overweight, age 25 and older, or a person of color may also increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes.10

What You Can Do

Diabetes is serious and can lead to other severe, chronic diseases and conditions. According to the National Diabetes Education Program: heart disease and stroke are two to four times more common in diabetics; diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness; diabetes is the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease; and, 60 – 70% of diabetics develop nerve damage.3

There is no cure for diabetes, so that is why it’s important to take preventative measures if you have not developed the disease. Alternatively, learning how best to manage it is key if you have the disease. Here are some lifestyle tips that can help you along the way:

  • Manage a healthy weight
  • Eat healthy and balanced
  • Regularly exercise and stay active
  • Don’t smoke


Nutrition and Diabetes

To decrease your risk of developing diabetes, add whole grains instead of refined grains.11,12 Refined grains and carbohydrates can increase sugar levels.11 Say no to sodas and drink more water.11,12 Eat healthy fats and proteins but watch your salt, trans fats, fried food, red meat, and processed foods intake.11,12 You can also never have too many green and non-starchy vegetables, beans, nuts, seed, or fruit.12