November is Diabetes Awareness month, and today is World Diabtes Day.
Diabetes is something near and dear to me, as I have spent essentially, my entire career specializing in helping PWD (Patients With Diabetes). This is what ultimately led me to obtain my CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator) credential.
What I have found is diabetes is one of the SINGLE most misunderstood diseases that exists. There are many facets of the disease that people just do NOT get.
Below are, what I hope are some helpful and illuminating facts about this disease.
- It’s much more prevalent than you might think
415 Million people worldwide have diabetes, about 44.3 million in the United States alone. On top of that approximately 82 million have Prediabetes. Odds are you know a few people while have diabetes and/or Prediabetes
- There is more than one type
Most people know this, although most people mix up the monikers. But it’s important to understand the distinctions in the two diseases – versus just jumping to a conclusion based on someone’s weight, and/or age.
Type 1 Diabetes- also known as juvenile diabetes. Type 1 can actually be diagnosed at any point in someone’s life. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, in which the insulin producing cells on the pancreas are destroyed. No insulin means really high blood sugars, and that they require insulin injections to survive and try to maintain some normal semblance of carbohydrate/glucose metabolism. People with type 1 diabetes make up about 5-10% of those with diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes-is characterized by insulin resistance- unlike type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes still make insulin, but their bodies do not utilize it as well as it once did- think as your car gets older- the gas mileage gets worse. Type 2 diabetes can also experience a loss in beta cell function (less insulin production) over time.
Prediabetes – condition that precedes type 2 diabetes when individuals have higher A1Cs, and fasting blood sugars than “normal” but are not yet high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes
- It can be wildly unpredictable
People forget that insulin is a hormone and can easily be impacted by: sleep disturbances, illness, diet changes, stress etc. Managing diabetes is not as simple as “here are some meds, and don’t eat sweets”- it doesn’t exactly work that way. It’s about understanding how everything mentioned above can impact your blood sugars, and then still being prepared to see glucose swings.
- It’s in the genes
We can’t pick our parents. Things like diet, smoking, and, physical activity are all things we can change about ourselves. Unfortunately genetics is not one of those things, having a family history of diabetes is something that is worth taking seriously.
- It can take over your life
See my point of “unpredictability” above- managing blood sugar swings from illness, treating lows, and correcting highs is something that can turn into an all day process
- You cannot tell by someone’s size which type of diabetes they have
Like many things in life you can’t judge a book by its cover. I have worked with people who are truly type 1, but also have insulin resistance, and vise versa.
- Having diabetes means you will need dialysis at some point or lose a limb
This can go both ways. I have worked with people who essentially have to fight tooth and nail to keep complications at bay. And I have seen others go through life not caring about their blood sugars, and are fortunate enough to avoid complications.
Dealing with complications is a really real and serious part of having diabetes, and many times when adults are initially diagnosed they know someone who has had complications, and that’s what they think of diabetes as being like.
- There is a NO “special diet” for people with diabetes
Now there are definitely things that run people’s blood sugars up. For people with diabetes it’s legitimately a process of balancing carb intake with insulin needs, and for some people taking into account insulin resistance. People with diabtets don’t need to learn how to live without foods, they learn to see how foods impact their blood sugars and balance that with insulin needs and other factors accordingly.
- Eating a diet high in sugar, and processed foods will NOT cause diabetes
(This is really more regarding Type 2 Diabetes, as, Type 1 is caused by someone’s pancreas breaking) Is poor diet a risk factor? Yes. But risk and causation are two entirely different things. Asking someone if they have the “type of diabetes caused by having a crappy diet” is just such a ridiculous statement. That is not to say that having a poor diet and lifestyle factors don’t play a significant role.
Diabetes is not a cookie cutter illness. What we know about the disease and how it effects people evolves daily.
And last but not least- one of my “favorite” diabetes myths: “people who take insulin did something wrong”.
No. People who take insulin want to live.
From 2014 to 2016 the theme of World Diabetes Day is, and will be centered around healthy living.
For the rest of the month I’ll be adding posts that pertain to healthy living, behavior change, and of course- recipes.