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National Diabetes Month: Making a Healthy Change

Written by Emily Pazel

 

With all the sweet treats, scrumptious meals and holiday traditions that center around this precious time of the year, it’s tough to be conscious about maintaining an adequate weight and healthy lifestyle. Thankfully, with November as National Diabetes Month, we can re-focus our attention on the physical, emotional and social effects that impact more than 30 million people living in the United States with diabetes.

Let’s start this journey off by getting down to the science and factual understanding behind what diabetes is, the different kinds of diabetes and how it affects our overall well being.

 

What is diabetes?

By definition, diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, is too high. Acting as the main source of your energy, blood glucose comes from the food that you eat. However, when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, a hormone created by the pancreas, the glucose stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells. 

Having too much glucose in your system can cause health problems later in life. And although there is currently no cure for diabetes, there are ways to manage it and stay healthy. 

The most common types of diabetes come in three forms:

  • Type 1 diabetes: This type of diabetes means that your body does not produce insulin due to your immune system attacking and destroying cells in your pancreas; Type 1 is typically diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age; if you have Type 1 diabetes, you have to take insulin every day to stay alive
  • Type 2 diabetes: This is the most common type of diabetes (90 - 95 percent are Type 2); if you have Type 2 diabetes, your body does not produce insulin well and you can develop it at any age; however, it’s more common that it will affect you in during middle-age or older
  • Gestational diabetes: This type of diabetes occurs in some when they are pregnant; after the baby is born, this type generally goes away, however, it could also mean that you’re more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life

Diabetes affects more people than you probably realize. In fact, over 30 million people or 9.4 percent of the population, are living with the disease in the United States, and studies show that more than 1 in 4 people don’t even know they’re living with it. More importantly, it affects 1 in 4 people living over the age of 65.

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When looking for signs and symptoms of diabetes, you should consult your doctor if you have any of the following or more: increased thirst and urination, increased hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, numbness or tingling in the feet or hands, sores that do not heal, unexplained weight loss.

With the high chances of having Type 2 diabetes later in life, it’s good to start taking precautions now to help reduce your chances and to live a better, healthier lifestyle.

How to best prevent/manage diabetes

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Although there is no cure and certain genetic factors that you can’t change, Type 2 diabetes, especially, can be managed through healthier lifestyle choices

  • Cut sugar and refined carbs from your diet: Although it might be tempting, it’s a good idea to resist eating sugary foods and refined carbs, which can have an impact on your health in the near future due to increasing blood sugar and insulin levels; many studies have shown a link between the frequent consumption of sugar and/or refined carbs and the risk of diabetes; find diets that replace sugar and carbs with healthier alternatives
  • Find a workout routine that work: Studies have shown that participating in physical activity on a regular basis may help prevent diabetes; when you exercise, you’re increasing the insulin sensitivity of your cells, and therefore, less insulin is required to keep your blood sugar levels under control
  • Drink more water: This should come as an obvious step, but many people aren’t getting enough water into their bodies; by sticking with drinking water, you can cut out beverages that tend to have lots of sugar, preservatives and other questionable ingredients
  • Lose the extra pounds, if necessary: Although not everyone who develops Type 2 diabetes is overweight or obese, the vast majority are; losing even a small amount of weight can help reduce the risk or diabetes, especially if you tend to carry extra weight around your stomach/abdominal area
  • Quit smoking: Even though can be a hard habit to kick, smoking has been strongly linked to the risk of diabetes, especially in heavy smokers; smoking can also contribute to other serious health conditions such as heart disease, emphysema and cancers of the lung, breast, prostate and digestive tract; by quitting smoking now, you can reduce the risk of having Type 2 diabetes over a period of time
  • Portion sizes are key: Overeating, although is might be tempting, has been shown to cause higher blood sugar insulin levels in people at risk of developing diabetes; decreasing and regulating portion sizes may help prevent against this
  • Eat a high-fiber diet & optimize vitamin D levels: Eating plenty of fiber-filled foods are a great way to achieve good gut health and weight management; studies have shown that by eating high fiber foods, obese, elderly and pre-diabetic individuals have a better chance of keeping their blood sugar and insulin levels low; implementing Vitamin D into your diet is good for your blood sugar control and can help reduce your risk of diabetes in the future

By sticking with the tips above, you can help yourself and your loved ones struggling with diabetes or help prevent it as much as possible from happening in the future.

Dealing with diabetes can affect you more than just physically; it can also affect you emotionally. So, taking care of yourself from the beginning is a good way to go about helping your overall well being.

 

How diabetes affects you physically & emotionally

Not only is it increasingly common for adults to at one point in their life experience Type 2 diabetes, the disease is also the leading cause of kidney failure in the United States.

Having diabetes means that the excess blood sugar can start to create problems on the blood vessels within the body and can cause severe health complications. It can severely damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and other body parts; it can also cause sexual problems and increase the risk of having a heart attack and stroke. 

And diabetes doesn’t just stop with the physical ailments. Studies have shown that it can lead to sudden mood changes, which can ultimately impact your life at home, as well as in the workplace. For some, living with the stress of diabetic complications can also contribute to changes in your mood, as well as lead to feelings of nervousness, anxiety and confusion. 

So, with the month of November being National Diabetes Month, the American Diabetes Association encourages everyone to start with one simple step: “Commit to a healthy lifestyle change by drinking more water, making a healthy meal or just getting moving.”

If you or someone that you know may be struggling with diabetes or pre-diabetes, take action today and consult with your doctor. They can help lead you down the path to a healthier lifestyle that could ultimately save your life.

 

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