Bringing Awareness to Diabetes During the Holiday Season



BY ELISA D. WALLACE

Usually watching one’s sugar intake is the last thing on one’s mind during the month of November. This month is synonymous with all things delicious. From baked pumpkin pie, to mouthwatering mashed potatoes, this month can also be a diabetic’s nightmare. This is exactly why the National Diabetes Program chose November as their month to bring awareness to this condition.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “An estimated 30.3 million people of all ages—or 9.4% of the U.S. population—had diabetes in 2015.” What is even more disturbing than this large number, is the fact that of this 30.3 million, “7.2 million (23.8%) were not aware of or did not report having diabetes.” More often than not, this is simply due to the fact that the symptoms of this condition can be tricky to spot. This said, it is vital to know the basics about diabetes.

Diabetes, which is a lifelong disease, can occur when the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. Diabetes occurs when one of the following occurs:

  • When the pancreas does not produce any insulin
  • When the pancreas produces very little insulin
  • When the body does not respond appropriately to insulin, a condition called “insulin resistance”

Diabetes is a disease that is split into three different types. Type I can occur when the immune system mistakenly manufactures antibodies and inflammatory cells that are directed against, and cause damage to, the patients’ own body tissues. People with type I diabetes have the beta cells of the pancreas, which are responsible for insulin production, attacked by the misdirected immune system. It is believed that the tendency to develop the abnormal antibodies in type I diabetes is partially genetically inherited, though the details are not fully understood. Type I diabetes tends to occur in young, lean individuals, usually before 30 years of age; however, older patients do present with this form of diabetes on occasion.

Type II diabetes occurs when those suffering can still produce insulin, but do so relatively inadequately for their body’s needs, particularly in the face of insulin resistance as discussed above. In many cases this means the pancreas produces larger than normal quantities of insulin. Often this occurs in individuals over 30 years old, although there are some type II diabetics who are barely in their teen years. Most of these more extreme cases are a direct result of poor eating habits, higher body weight, and lack of exercise.

The final type of diabetes is called gestational diabetes. Some women get this kind of diabetes when they are pregnant, yet most of the time, it goes away after the baby is born.

Now that we know the basics about this lifelong disease, join the National Diabetes Education Program’s theme: “Managing Diabetes – It’s Not Easy, But It’s Worth It.” This theme highlights the importance of managing diabetes. Many patients have diabetes-related health problems such as heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, and amputation. The theme this year serves as a reminder to people who may be struggling with the demands of managing diabetes that they are not alone.

What are a few steps for those managing diabetes during the difficult holiday season? Read on for four easy tips and tricks.

Tip # 1: Learn about this disease. It is vital to learn about the three types of diabetes, especially the type you are suffering from. While your medical professional should give you directions for managing this condition, it is also important to educate yourself in other ways. From attending education classes, to joining a support group, half the battle is learning about the complex disease.

Tip # 2: Get to know your ABCs about this disease. When it comes to diabetes, it is vital to get the ABCs down.

  • A stands for the A1C test. This is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months.
  • B is for blood pressure. People with diabetes need to watch their blood pressure, and have a goal of being below 140/90.
  • C is for cholesterol. Victims of diabetes often will have high cholesterol and it is crucial to watch its levels.

Tip # 3: Live a healthy lifestyle. Just because you has diabetes, doesn’t mean you cannot live a happy, full life. Coping requires following the rules of a healthy life: getting plenty of sleep and exercise, following a healthy diet, and talking with your health care team.

Tip # 4: Set up routine care to stay healthy. Make sure to set up regular appointments with your health providers. See your health care team at least twice a year to find and treat any problems early.

At each visit, be sure you have a:

  • blood pressure check
  • foot check
  • weight check

Two times each year, have an:

  • A1C test

Once each year, be sure you have a:

  • cholesterol test
  • complete foot exam
  • dental exam
  • dilated eye exam
  • flu shot
  • urine and a blood test

While living with diabetes does require some lifestyle changes, it is a manageable disease. With this said, the holiday season is not a time for diabetics to avoid family and friends. By following these simple tips, everyone will be able to relish in holiday gatherings!


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