Fast Facts on Diabetes and Management

by Melissa Chichester

According to the CDC, 30 million people in the United States have diabetes; however, 1 in 4 people don’t actually know they have it.

Even more alarming is the estimate that 1/3 of Americans have prediabetes (also known as impaired glucose tolerance), and that 90% of these people are unaware of it. With statistics like this, it is likely that most of us know someone with diabetes or someone who will develop it in the future. The time to get serious about diabetes is now and since April is Defeat Diabetes Month, it is the perfect time to make that commitment.

The differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes accounts for just 5% of diabetes patients. This is a chronic condition that cannot be cured and is also known as “juvenile diabetes,” since it is typically diagnosed in childhood. Type 1 diabetes means that the pancreas is making too little insulin or none at all. There is no cure for Type 1 diabetes but it can be managed by the patient and their family with the care of educators and healthcare providers.

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body doesn’t properly process insulin. Generally, in Type 2 diabetes the pancreas makes too much insulin, which causes blood sugar levels to rise. Metabolic syndrome, weight, and your genetic makeup are all factors that can impact whether or not someone develops Type 2 diabetes.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes

Interestingly, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes share some of the same symptoms, including:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling tired
  • Urinating frequently
  • Increased appetite

While these aren’t the only symptoms, it is important to note that diabetes can be difficult to detect on its own. With Type 2 diabetes, these symptoms often do not present themselves until glucose has been raised for quite some time. A simple blood test from your doctor can determine whether or not you have diabetes or are at risk of developing it. A yearly blood test can also help catch rising blood sugar levels in advance.

Lifestyle management with diabetes

As with any condition, it is important to practice healthy lifestyle habits to encourage optimum wellness. The American Diabetes Association cites lifestyle management a “fundamental aspect” of care while living with diabetes. This lifestyle encourages keeping blood glucose levels at a healthy range. Recommendations for management include:

  • Participating in diabetes self-care and management educational courses and groups
  • Nutrition therapy with a healthcare team
  • An exercise program that incorporates moderate aerobic activity
  • Limit stress or practice relaxation techniques to control stress
  • Developing a support system
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting excessive alcohol consumption

With so much to learn, these recommendations may seem overwhelming at first; however, management plans are tailored to the individual based on many factors, including age. Having a support system that will learn about diabetes with you, which includes your family and friends, will help you become more comfortable with these lifestyle changes.

More surprising facts about diabetes

Diabetes is not just a health epidemic in the United States. The impact of diabetes is experienced all around the world. Here are some other surprising facts about diabetes according to the World Health Organization:

  • 422 million people in the world have diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes can occur during pregnancy
  • Diabetes causes 1.6 million deaths per year
  • Diabetes can cause complications that lead to blindness, kidney failure, and amputation
  • Type 2 diabetes is preventable

The good news is that we know more now than ever before about diabetes thanks to the modern research available, and this knowledge base grows daily. With consistent lifestyle changes and habits, you can support not only yourself but loved ones who deal with diabetes.