November is National Diabetes Month

If you don’t live with it yourself, then it’s likely you have a family member or friend who does. What would that be? That would be diabetes. November is National Diabetes Month and in fact Nov. 14 was World Diabetes Day. Attention is focused on diabetes across the country and the globe in November to increase awareness on the importance of diagnosing and managing this disease.

The statistics are sobering when it comes to diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 114 million U.S. persons are living with diabetes (30 million) or prediabetes (84 million). Diabetes is the general term that refers to the disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough — or any — insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems. Although diabetes has no cure, you can take steps to manage your diabetes and stay healthy. The most common types of diabetes are type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes — If you have type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. Your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive.

Type 2 diabetes — If you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make or use insulin well. You can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. However this type of diabetes occurs most often in middle-aged and older people. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes.

Gestational diabetes — Gestational diabetes develops in some women when they are pregnant. Most of the time, this type of diabetes goes away after the baby is born. However, if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are age 45 or older, have a family history of diabetes, or are overweight. Physical inactivity, race and certain health problems such as high blood pressure also affect your chance of developing type 2 diabetes. You are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes or had gestational diabetes when you were pregnant.

Some people might say that they have a “touch of diabetes” or “borderline diabetes.” This could also be called prediabetes. These terms suggest that someone doesn’t really have diabetes or has a less serious case. Prediabetes is an elevated blood glucose level that is not quite high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, but is higher than normal. One in three American adults has prediabetes, and most do not know they have it. Many people with prediabetes who do not lose weight or do moderate physical activity will come to develop type 2 diabetes.

Finding out if you are affected by diabetes and taking care of yourself and managing your disease are key to helping you feel good today and in the future if you have diabetes. Diabetes can lead to serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and amputations of the foot, toe or leg.

Some people need to take medications to control their blood sugars and some are able to control their blood sugars by diet alone. But whether you take medications for diabetes or not, eating well can definitely help you manage this disease. There are some basic principles that apply to most diabetic meal plans and these guidelines aren’t just recommendations for people with diabetes — they are good for the whole family too. These basic principles include:

1. Choosing foods that are lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and salt

2. Eating foods with more fiber, such as whole grains cereals, fruits and vegetables

3. Choosing naturally-friendly carbohydrate foods such as whole pieces of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low fat or skim milk

4. Drinking water instead of juice, regular soda and sugary drinks

5. Watching your portion sizes- sometimes it’s not what you eat, but how much

Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.