By Nancy Orton, BSN, RN, MBA, CDE
Mercy Clinic Diabetes Education – Carthage
Each month seems to have a special day with its claim to fame. For most, November brings Thanksgiving to mind. This is such a wonderful time for food, family, friends and thanking God for our blessings.
For 21 million people diagnosed with diabetes, however, it can be a time of struggle and frustration. As we know, holiday celebrations can bring with them more meals, more calories and often higher blood sugars for those with diabetes.
As a diabetes educator, I feel it’s important to bring attention to the fact that November is also the month that has been chosen for health care professionals, organizations and communities to bring awareness to diabetes and the pressing need to address this serious problem.
Diabetes is a progressive disease characterized by elevated levels of blood sugar that, left untreated, can result in serious complications such as amputations or chronic kidney disease or even death. Good management includes patient education to facilitate self-care and regular screening for early detection and treatment of complications.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), someone in the United States is diagnosed with diabetes every 23 seconds. While 21 million people have been diagnosed with the disease, another 8.1 million are unaware they have it.
The numbers of those with diabetes is alarming. The ADA suggests that 1 in 11 Americans has the disease. Equally disturbing is that 86 million people have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common compared to type 1. Risk factors include age, race, family history, being overweight, history of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of physical activity, smoking and poor eating habits.
Because prediabetes often has no clear symptoms, it can be difficult to know if you have it. Therefore, it’s important to have regular screenings for early detection, especially if you have any of risk factors.
One way to screen for prediabetes is a blood test called hemoglobin A1C. This test gives valuable information regarding blood glucose levels over the past two to three months. The results of the test will help determine what action is needed next.
The good news is that people who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes can lower their risks by making healthy changes. ADA research has shown that you can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by 58 percent by losing 7 percent of your body weight and exercising moderately for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Diabetes is a challenging disease requiring unending self-management to balance food, physical activity, glucose monitoring and medications. Each year in November, health organizations have diabetes screening events to test and educate people about diabetes. It’s important to take advantage of these opportunities for early detection so the risk of complications might be reduced.
Diabetes can impact every aspect of one’s life, from diet to activity, to family and friends, so it’s important to diagnose it early and treat it aggressively.