November is American Diabetes Month

By: Jenn WhilborgADA

It seems that everyone you ask could name at least one person they know who is a diabetic. This is because 1 in 11 Americans have diabetes today. Diabetes is a chronic disease, although many people do not think of it this way. There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes results from the impaired synthesis of insulin by the pancreas. This means that the pancreas is not producing the insulin that our body needs to lower our blood glucose levels. Type 1 diabetics may also have issues with the suppression of glucagon release, which leads to hyperglycemia – a hallmark indicator of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed at a young age, and currently accounts for just five percent of diabetics. That means that 95 percent of diabetics are Type 2. Type 2 diabetes has a very strong genetic component, meaning that one should be aware of their family health histories. In Type 2 diabetics, the body becomes resistant to insulin. Eating a healthy diet low in added sugars paired with regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are the simple steps to reduce your risk of diabetes, even if there is a family history of diabetes! Treatment for the two differ, as Type 1 diabetics need exogenous insulin, while Type 2 diabetics may be treated with diet and physical activity. If this does not help, medication to increase insulin sensitivity is needed for T2DM (Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus) patients.

Diabetes is a very important disease that needs to be taken seriously. Currently, it is the 7th leading cause of death, making it a higher risk than AIDS and breast cancer combined. Complications resulting from uncontrolled diabetes include, but are not limited to, heart disease, eye problems (including glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy), diabetic neuropathy (pain and burning of feet, hands, and other body parts), and gum disease. Diabetes is also the leading cause of kidney failure of adults in the U.S. To prevent these life-threatening and debilitating complications, diabetes can be easily managed with the proper education. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are the experts that can help teach diabetics how to read food labels, find good diabetic cookbooks and make food substitutions (since dietary changes will be necessary), offer nutrition counseling, and more. With a new diagnosis of diabetes being made every 23 seconds in the U.S, it is critical that the general public is made aware of this disease, especially during the month of November.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it is common for many diabetics to find it difficult to enjoy the day with their family as most are concerned with their management plan throughout the day. Thanksgiving is centered on sharing food with family and friends, but often families tend to forget that those with diabetes can’t enjoy most of the foods that the rest of the family can. Most Thanksgiving staples are full of carbohydrates, sugar, and fat. Diabetics can help reduce this conflict by taking these few quick steps prior to making Thanksgiving dinner plans:

  • Give family members a gentle reminder about your disease. Make them aware that you shouldn’t be eating things high in sugar or carbohydrates
  • Make a game plan – ask what people are going to be bringing or serving, and decide what and how much you are going to have to eat in advance
  • Bring or suggest diabetes-friendly recipes, including low-carb green bean casserole and reduced or sugar-free pies or other desserts
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