Each year, November serves as National Diabetes Month, a time when communities across the country team up to bring awareness to diabetes. It’s a time to get educated, find resources, and make sure every individual is aware of the risk of developing or living with diabetes.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease that causes high blood glucose. The hormone, insulin, moves glucose from the blood into your cells to be stored or used for energy. For an individual with diabetes, their body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t effectively use the insulin it does make. There are a few different types of diabetes including:
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas where insulin is made. It is unknown as to what causes type 1 diabetes. Genes may play a role in some individuals, however, it is also possible that a virus sets off the immune system attack.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body becomes resistant to insulin and glucose builds up in your blood. Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. Being overweight or obese makes your cells more resistant to the effects of insulin on your blood glucose. This condition can also run in the family.
- Gestational diabetes is high blood glucose during pregnancy. Insulin-blocking hormones produced by the placenta cause this type of diabetes. Women who are overweight when they get pregnant or who gain too much weight during their pregnancy are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
Diabetes symptoms are caused by rising blood glucose and include:
- Increased hunger
- Increased thirst
- Weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Blurry vision
- Extreme fatigue
- Body sores that do not heal
For women with gestational diabetes, there are typically no symptoms. The condition is often detected during a routine blood glucose test or oral glucose test that is typically performed between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.
High blood glucose damages organs and tissues throughout your body. The higher your blood glucose is and the longer you live with it, the greater your risk for complications. These complications include:
- Heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
- Retinopathy and vision loss
- Hearing loss
- Foot damage such as infections and sores that don’t heal
- Skin condition such as bacterial and fungal infections
Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can lead to problems that affect both the mother and baby. Complications can include:
- High blood pressure
- Premature birth
- Higher-than-normal weight at birth
- Increased risk for type 2 diabetes later in life
- Low blood glucose
Type 1 diabetes is caused by a problem with the immune system and is not at this time preventable. Some causes of type 2 diabetes, such as your genes or age, aren’t controllable either.
Many other diabetes risk factors are controllable and most prevention strategies involve making simple adjustments to your diet and fitness routine. These strategies include:
- Getting at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercises, such as walking or cycling
- Reducing saturated and trans fat, along with refined carbohydrates, from your diet
- Eating more fruits, vegetable, and whole grains
- Eating smaller portions
Discuss potential risks with your doctor today. If you’re at risk, have your blood glucose tested and follow your doctor’s advice for managing your blood glucose.