Hi friends! As I mentioned last week, I’m working on some really cool projects for work that I wanted to tell you about. I totally understand if diabetes is not your thing and you’re not interested in this topic, but I’m learning a lot about this disease through my new job and most of it is relevant to what I talk about on the blog anyway, so I figured I might as well share. I hope you find it as interesting as I do!
Today’s post is more about diabetes in general–a diabetes 101 if you will–but future posts will focus on more “fun” topics like National Healthy Lunch Day and Get Fit, Don’t Sit Day, so stay tuned for those as well.
Ok. So, I will start by telling you that November is American Diabetes Month, which, for us, is a time to raise awareness about this often overlooked disease. Did you know that one in 11 Americans has diabetes, and a quarter of these people are undiagnosed? If left untreated, diabetes can cause nerve damage that can lead to amputation, as well as blindness and a whole host of other symptoms, including death. It’s definitely not something you want to ignore. (By the way, the main symptoms for diabetes are perpetual thirst and rapid weight loss, but of course there are numerous other symptoms and only a blood test from a health care provider can confirm a diagnosis.)
The theme for this year’s American Diabetes Month is “This Is Diabetes,” which is an opportunity for anyone affected by the disease to share their story and bring attention what life with diabetes is really like.
Diabetes is a disease where your body no longer produces or uses insulin properly. Your body needs insulin to break down sugar from food, so it can leave the blood stream and enter your cells. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.
Before I started working at the American Diabetes Association, I thought I knew a fair amount type 2 diabetes. Formerly called adult-onset diabetes because it mostly affects adults, this is the type of diabetes that is often preventable and even treatable through healthy eating and exercise. It occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood for your pancreas to keep up. Of course there are plenty of factors that can lead to type 2 diabetes–for example race plays a pretty big role, as minorities are disproportionately affected–but for the most part if you’re diagnosed with what’s called prediabetes, you can reverse it by adopting a healthier lifestyle. These days a lot more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, hence the name change. Obesity, age, sedentary lifestyle and race are all risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Then there is type 1 diabetes, which used to be called juvenile diabetes because it usually develops in children and young adults, though it lasts throughout the lifespan. Truthfully, I knew nothing about this part of the disease before I started working for the American Diabetes Association, but I now know that it happens when your autoimmune system destroys the cells that produce insulin, and you stop making the hormone altogether (whereas with type 2, insulin production slows and may eventually stop, but doesn’t happen all at once). Scientists still aren’t sure what exactly causes type 1 diabetes, but they think genetics and some illnesses could play a role. Five percent of Americans with diabetes have type 1, which is more than one million Americans.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed with oral medications for a while, but eventually many people wind up needing insulin shots or an insulin pump. People with type 1 diabetes need insulin shots or pumps no matter what. The hope is that technological and scientific advancements could help with this in the future, but that’s where we stand today.
Basically diabetes is a really awful disease that people just don’t talk about much, even though it’s so incredibly prevalent in our society. Managing it is really difficult, and people who have diabetes need to constantly count their carbs, pay attention to what their eating, include lots of physical activity, and monitor their blood glucose. Not to mention the shots and the pumps, which go into your skin with a needle. It’s a 24/7, 365 disease. There is no cure.
I think my main point of this post is to encourage you to look around and realize that for every 11 people you encounter, at least one of them most likely has diabetes. (Side note: If you know someone you think might be at risk for prediabetes or type 2, there’s a quick and easy risk test they can take here.)
The point of the This Is Diabetes campaign is to showcase what it’s like to live with diabetes, and this post is my attempt to do that. A bunch of my coworkers have type 1 diabetes, and there are people in my family who are at risk for type 2 diabetes if they don’t already have prediabetes, so this is a cause that’s important to me. Especially since prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are mostly preventable with diet and exercise, I just think it’s a message that needs to be shared.
As part of the campaign, I helped our team develop a bunch of really inspiring videos about real people with diabetes (both types). You can watch a few of them below.
Jessica was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was in college. She was always told she wouldn’t be able to have a child, but luckily, she didn’t listen.
Robin and her niece, Zamaiah, manage their type 2 diabetes as a family.
Guadalupe’s mom used to take care of him and his 10 brothers and sisters. Now he takes care of her and helps her manage her type 2 diabetes.
If this is something that you’re interested in and you’d like to hear more about the campaign, you can share your own diabetes story or find additional resources here.
Alright, I hope I didn’t bore you all to death. If you’re still reading, thanks for humoring me! I hope the rest of my work-related posts will be a little more on the “fun” side, but I thought this one was an important one to start off with.
Question of the day: Do you know anyone with diabetes? What is his/her story?
*Disclaimer: I am an employee of the American Diabetes Association; however, I am not being compensated for this post. All opinions are my own. I am not a scientist or a health care provider. Talk to your doctor if you think you may have diabetes.*