National Diabetes Month is observed every November to draw attention to diabetes and its effect on millions of Americans. More than 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with this disease and millions more have it — but don’t know it.
Diabetes is a disease that affects a person’s blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels. Diabetes causes the blood glucose to be too high.
With type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make insulin. With the more common type 2 diabetes, your body does not make or use insulin well.
Diabetes is taking a heavy toll on this country’s health. It’s the leading cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations (other than injury related) and new cases of blindness among adults. It can cause nerve damage, heart disease and stroke.
You may not realize that…
- People with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized for a heart attack or stroke.
- Diabetes causes nearly 50% of all cases of kidney failure.
- More than half of all amputations in adults occur in people with diabetes.
- More than half a million American adults have advanced diabetic retinopathy, greatly increasing their risk for severe vision loss.
- About 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that causes pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and other nerve problems.
Beyond the medical challenges of diabetes, there’s a huge financial cost. The total cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States last year was $327 billion.
Symptoms of this disease can be so mild that they may not be noticed. Report any of these symptoms to your health care provider:
- Urinating often
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Weight loss – even though you are eating more (type 1)
- Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands and/or feet (type 2)
You can take steps to help prevent diabetes:
- Ask your health care provider if you should be checked for diabetes. A simple blood test – called the A1C test – can show whether you have diabetes or are at risk for developing the disease.
- Be physically active every day.
- Keep yourself at a desirable weight. If you are overweight, even a small weight loss can help decrease your risk for diabetes.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Cut down on sweets and high-fat foods.
- Don’t go longer than four or five hours without eating.
- Enjoy healthy snacks when hungry.
- Don’t skip meals.
- Limit foods high in sugar and fat.
- Avoid regular soda and sweetened beverages.
By making important lifestyle changes now, you may be able to alter the course of your long-term health. If you already have diabetes, your goal should be to have your blood sugar under optimal control – that is, in the range that will keep you feeling well and help prevent complications.
Michelle Medvecz, NP, is nurse practitioner in the endocrinology department at the Aurora Health Center in Oshkosh, located at 855 N. Westhaven Dr. She can be reached at 920-303-8700.