November is National Diabetes Month, a time when communities across the U.S. team up to bring attention to diabetes. Adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke, which is why it’s important to begin to educate our youth about diabetes and what it means for their health.
What is diabetes? Diabetes is a serious disease that happens when someone’s body does not have enough of a hormone called insulin or can’t use insulin properly.
How does it happen? Insulin is the key hormone that lets glucose go through a cell wall into our cells. If there is not enough insulin there can be a lot of sugar (glucose) traveling around in the blood. Over time the high blood sugar can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys and neurological system and can lead to vision loss.
The two most common forms of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 Diabetes
Children and young people usually get Type 1 diabetes, which is not caused by diet or lifestyle. However more young people are getting Type 2 diabetes because they are overweight or obese.
In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin because the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that make insulin.
In children, Type 1 diabetes usually starts between 5 to 12-years-old. Often, a child becomes sick very suddenly. Symptoms can include;
· feeling more tired than usual
· feeling thirsty more than usual
· losing weight
· the urge to urinate, a lot
If you’re worried that your child may have symptoms of Type 1 diabetes, bring your child to his or her doctor right away. A simple blood test can inform you whether your child has Type 1 diabetes. If your child does have Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
About 90% of people with diabetes have Type 2. In Type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels. The good news is that there are steps people with diabetes can take to decrease the chance of having heart disease or a stroke:
- Stop smoking or using other tobacco products.
- Maintain good control over blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
- Develop or maintain healthy lifestyle habits
- Take medicines as prescribed by your doctor.
- Learn about the Take Charge of Your Diabetes program, a six-week workshop that provides tools for living a healthy life for people with diabetes:
You Can Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Take the following steps to lower your risk of diabetes:
- Reach a healthy weight. Losing even a small amount of weight can prevent or delay diabetes for some people.
- Stay physically active. Adults should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week (or about 30 minutes per day on most days) of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking or dancing, swimming or bicycling. Children should get at least an hour of physical activity each day. Remember, any physical activity is better than none!
- Choose healthy foods. Choose fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Avoid foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat.
- Quit smoking. Smoking raises people’s blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. By quitting smoking, you can lower their risk for heart attack, stroke, nerve damage, and kidney disease. The Tennessee Tobacco Quit Line provides personalized support for Tennesseans who want to quit smoking or chewing tobacco.
The National Diabetes Prevention Program is available to help you! The program is an evidence-based (proven to work based on research) lifestyle change program for preventing type 2 diabetes. More information can be found here.