World Diabetes Day: Know the Facts
November 14, 2023, marks World Diabetes Day. It’s also the 100th anniversary of awarding the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine to Frederick Banting and John Macleod for the discovery of insulin. If you or a loved one are living with diabetes, you know the importance of having a healthy life. In honor of World Diabetes Day, read on to learn more about diabetes, prevent and manage the disease, and ensure you live a healthy life.
World Diabetes Day Facts:
Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to use and store glucose properly. There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune disease that usually appears in children and young adults. In people with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops making insulin, a hormone that maintains blood glucose levels. When insulin is poor, glucose builds up in the bloodstream and can cause lasting damage. People with Type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin doses or use an insulin pump. Taking these daily doses helps balance their body’s glucose levels.
Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in mid-life or later adulthood, accounting for around 90% of diabetes cases worldwide. For people with Type 2 diabetes, there’s a production of insulin, but the body’s cells do not properly respond to the hormone. The pancreas of people with Type 2 diabetes also has trouble producing extra insulin to combat this resistance. As a result, just like in Type 1 diabetes, harming amounts of glucose build up in the bloodstream. Eventually, insulin doses or pumps will also be necessary for people with this type of disease. While genetics impact someone’s likelihood of developing insulin resistance, obesity and lack of exercise are major risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes.
In 2021, 537 million adults (1 in 10) worldwide were living with diabetes. By 2030, there are projections of a growth of 643 million. Nearly 1 in 2 adults with diabetes remain diagnosed; most have Type 2 diabetes. In addition, more than 540 million adults worldwide are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Over 1.2 million children and teens had Type 1 diabetes worldwide in 2021. Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) was responsible for nearly 7 million deaths worldwide in 2021 and for at least $966 billion in health costs.
Know Your Risk Factors
Type 1 diabetes is entirely genetic, meaning no lifestyle risk factors add to the disease’s development. Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes include:
- Immediate family history of diabetes
- Age (Type 1 diabetes typically develops in children, teens, and young adults)
- Ethnicity (white Americans are more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes than Native Americans/Alaskan Natives, non-Hispanic Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, or Asian Americans)
Common risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include:
- Immediate family history of diabetes
- Being overweight or obese
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity (less than three times per week)
- Increasing age
- High blood pressure
- Ethnicity (Native Americans/Alaskan Natives, non-Hispanic Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans experience higher Type 2 diabetes rates than non-Hispanic white Americans)
- Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) blood glucose that is higher than usual but below the threshold for diagnosing diabetes
- History of gestational diabetes
- Poor health during pregnancy
Living Healthy with Diabetes
Proper diet, exercise, rest, stress reduction, medication, and regular medical check-ups all play an important role in managing the effects of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes should monitor their blood glucose levels, take prescribed insulin as their healthcare provider directs, and get their cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and A1C levels (average blood sugar over three months) checked regularly. It is critical to continue taking insulin and other medications as prescribed, even when feeling good.
People with diabetes should also work with a registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) to develop a healthy meal plan. Learning to make healthy diet choices can help manage their disease best. Keeping a food and blood sugar journal can help track how your body reacts to certain foods and identify trends to help you feel your best.
Engaging in 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week is also essential in managing diabetes and helping patients cope with the stresses of their disease (and of life!). Other forms of stress relief and support can include mindfulness practices, therapy, or joining a support group – this can be vital in reducing mental and emotional stress that can lead to increased blood glucose levels.
Of course, for people without diabetes, following a healthy lifestyle can also help prevent Type 2 diabetes. A few standard recommendations include:
- Choosing water, coffee, or tea instead of fruit juice, soda, or other sugar-sweetened beverages
- Eating at least three servings of veggies every day, including green leafy veggies
- Eating up to three servings of fresh fruit every day
- Limiting alcohol intake to a maximum of two standard drinks per day
- Choosing lean cuts of white meat, poultry, or seafood instead of red or processed meat
- Aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (e.g., walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling)
- Engaging in strength training (using weights, bodyweight, or resistance bands) to increase muscle mass and improve insulin sensitivity and glucose control
In honor of World Diabetes Day, remember that proactively preventing diabetes or managing your disease can help you live a healthy and active life with your loved ones!
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