URBANA, Ill. - Today, 1 in 11 Americans has diabetes. Men and women of all races, ages, shapes, and sizes are battling this mostly invisible disease. Every 23 seconds someone in the United States is diagnosed with diabetes. It is important to bring awareness to this chronic disease and dispel stereotypes, myths, and misinformation around diabetes, says a University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator.
Each year in November the American Diabetes Association celebrates diabetes awareness month and this year’s theme is This is Diabetes.
“If you and your family have been fortunate enough to avoid diabetes, you certainly don’t have to look far to find someone dealing with the triumphs and challenges of managing diabetes,” Csernus says. Diabetes is a public health crisis with 29 million Americans diagnosed and another 86 million at risk. “Managing diabetes takes motivation, persistence, knowledge, and skill. Managing diabetes means keeping blood glucose levels within a range that lessens the chances of complications associated with diabetes. The effort it takes to accomplish this will look different for different people,” she adds.
Csernus provides the following examples of the daily routines of people with diabetes. “This is diabetes…..parents waking up in the wee hours of the morning to assure their child’s glucose levels are staying within a safe range overnight; someone with type 1 diabetes who checks their blood glucose levels five to six times each day; the athlete that has to make sure he matches his food intake and medication to make it through the event with stable blood glucose; a colleague who is prepared with carbohydrate-friendly meals and snacks, despite what others are eating; the child that has to interrupt the school day to monitor glucose levels and eat scheduled snacks. This is just a small sampling of the challenges of managing diabetes.
“The challenges are real, but so are the triumphs! The satisfaction of finding out your 3-month average glucose level (A1C) is within the target range; recognizing how much carbohydrate you can tolerate at meals and snacks; balancing food intake and physical activity to stay healthy; and maintaining a strong support system around you to help you stay on track,” Csernus adds. “Diabetes is so much more than the medication used to treat it and food eaten to control it. Diabetes takes a lot of organization and planning. Diabetes can also be a financial burden. Health care can cost up to 2.3 times more than for someone without diabetes.”
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children or during early adulthood, although it can be diagnosed later as well. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for about 5 percent of all diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that is necessary to carry the sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream to the cell to be used for energy. People with type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin and must take insulin injections every day.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of diabetes and occurs when the body doesn’t produce or use insulin effectively. Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults, but is also being diagnosed more frequently in younger individuals because of extra weight and an inactive lifestyle. Being overweight, having a family history of diabetes, leading a sedentary lifestyle, or having gestational diabetes can increase diabetes risk. Some people with type 2 diabetes may be able to manage their diabetes with meal planning and regular physical activity, while others may require oral medication and/or insulin. Diabetes is a progressive disease, which means treatment plans will likely change as the disease progresses.
Share your story, or encourage a friend or family member to share theirs using #ThisIsDiabetes.
To learn more about diabetes visit the American Diabetes Association website at http://diabetes.org/ and University of Illinois Extension’s website, Your Guide to Diet and Diabetes, at http://extension.illinois.edu/diabetes2/.