November Is National Diabetes Month

— Written By Tracy Davis
en Español / em Português

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Imagine in your mind a person with diabetes. Did you picture someone older, perhaps overweight, inactive? You would be only partly correct. You cannot tell if someone has diabetes by looking at them. Diabetes can look like anyone – all ages, all weights, all fitness levels, and all races and ethnicities.

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose. More simply, diabetes affects how your body turns food into energy.

Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.

There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant). In type 1 diabetes, the body lacks the cells which produce insulin in the pancreas. Type 1 is thought to be caused by an immune reaction, often starts quickly with severe symptoms, occurs most often in children, teens, and young adults, and cannot yet be prevented. People with type 1 must use insulin every day to survive. Type 1 is the least common type of diabetes accounting for only about five percent of all diabetes cases.

In contrast, type 2 diabetes is much more prevalent, and most importantly, preventable. In type 2, the cells in the body fail to respond to insulin normally and the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Type 2 has a gradual onset that develops over many years, often occurs later in life, and can be prevented or delayed through lifestyle changes. Over 90 percent of the people with diabetes have type 2.

To learn about the 2020 National Diabetes Month awareness campaign, visit the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Additional resources are available from the American Diabetes Association, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Eat Smart Move More (ESMM) organization.

What is Pre-Diabetes?