November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

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November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, which aims to bring attention to diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans.

Diabetes Basics

There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

About 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, and there are an estimated 40,000 new diagnoses each year in the United States. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. Contrary to popular belief, however, it is not just a childhood disease. Type 1 diabetes occurs in people of every age. A diagnosis of type 1 diabetes means that the individual’s pancreas, which produces insulin, is no longer capable of doing so. People with type 1 diabetes require multiple daily injections with insulin pens or an insulin pump to regulate their blood glucose levels.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in the United States. For people with type 2 diabetes, their bodies do not use insulin properly, which is known as insulin resistance. At first, an individual’s pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it, but this is not sustainable over time. Eventually, the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels normal. Lifestyle changes, oral medications, and insulin treat Type 2 diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes affects the mother in late pregnancy, while the baby is still growing. For this reason, untreated or poorly controlled gestational diabetes can potentially cause problems to the baby. When a woman has gestational diabetes, her pancreas works overtime to produce insulin, but the insulin does not lower her blood glucose levels. Although insulin does not cross the placenta, extra blood glucose does, which gives the baby high blood glucose levels. Since the baby is getting more energy than it needs to grow and develop, the extra energy is stored and can lead to a baby that is larger in size. Treatment for gestational diabetes includes diet and exercise and may also include blood glucose testing and insulin injections.

Diabetes Myths

Below are some misconceptions about diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Diabetes is not a serious disease.

Diabetes actually causes more deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined, and having diabetes nearly doubles your chance of having a heart attack.

Eating sugar causes diabetes. 

A diet high in calories from any source contributes to weight gain, and weight gain increases your risk for type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease.

If you are overweight, you are likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Being overweight is a risk factor for developing diabetes, but other risk factors such as physical activity, family history, and age also play a role. Many people think that weight is the only risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.