Monthly Awareness

American Diabetes Month Shines Light on Disease’s Impact

Let’s Not Sugarcoat This

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin, which acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.

If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream, which over time can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

There isn’t a cure yet for diabetes, but healthy lifestyle habits, taking medicine as needed, getting diabetes self-management education, and keeping appointments with your healthcare team can greatly reduce its impact on your life.

In the U.S. alone, 30.3 million adults have diabetes, and one-quarter of them don’t know they have it. Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the top cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and adult-onset blindness. In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than tripled as the American population has aged and become more overweight or obese.

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (which is diabetes while pregnant).

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake) that stops your body from making insulin. About 5% of the people who have diabetes have type 1. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often develop quickly. It’s usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. If you have type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to take insulin every day to survive. Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes.

With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. About 90% people with diabetes have this type. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults (though increasingly in children, teens, and young adults). You may not notice any symptoms, so it’s important to get your blood sugar tested if you’re at risk. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight if you’re overweight, healthy eating, and getting regular physical activity.

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. If you have gestational diabetes, your baby could be at higher risk for health complications. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after your baby is born, but increases your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. Your baby is more likely to become obese as a child or teen, and more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life too.

In the U.S., 84.1 million adults — more than 1 in 3 — have prediabetes, and 90% of them don’t know they have it. Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood-sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. v


Great American Smokeout Encourages Americans to Kick the Habit

Take the First Step

The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout is held on the third Thursday in November each year. Smokers are encouraged to use the date (this year, it’s Nov. 21) to take an important step toward a healthier life by making a plan to quit, or by planning in advance and quitting smoking that day.

Smokers often say, “don’t tell me why to quit, tell me how.” There’s no one right way to quit, but there are some requirements for quitting with success.

• Make the decision to quit smoking. The decision to quit smoking is one that only you can make. Others may want you to quit, but the real commitment must come from you.

• Think about why you want to quit. Are you worried that you could get a smoking-related disease? Do you really believe the benefits of quitting outweigh the benefits of continuing to smoke? Do you know someone who has had health problems because of smoking? Are you ready to make a serious try at quitting? Write down your reasons so you can look at them every time you want to smoke.

• Once you’ve decided to quit, you’re ready to pick a quit date. This is a key step. Pick a day within the next month as your Quit Day. Picking a date too far away gives you time to change your mind. Still, you need to give yourself enough time to prepare. You might choose a date with a special meaning like a birthday or anniversary, or the date of the Great American Smokeout. Or you might want to just pick a random date. Circle the date on your calendar. Make a strong, personal commitment to quit on that day.

There are many ways to quit, and some work better than others. Nicotine-replacement therapy, prescription drugs, and other methods are available. Learn more about ways to quit so you can find the method that best suites you. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor or dentist, and get their advice and support.

Support is another key part of your plan. Stop-smoking programs, telephone quit lines, Nicotine Anonymous meetings, self-help materials such as books and pamphlets, and smoking counselors can be a great help. Also tell your family, friends, and co-workers that you’re quitting. They can give you help and encouragement, which increases your chances of quitting for good.

It’s important to remember that quitting is hard. Quit-smoking programs in general seem to have fairly low success rates, but they can still be worthwhile. Only about 4% to 7% of people are able to quit smoking on any given attempt without medicines or other help. Finding a program that fits your needs can make a difference.

Counseling and other types of emotional support can boost success rates higher than medicines alone. There’s also early evidence that combining certain medicines may work better than using a single drug.

Behavioral and supportive therapies may increase success rates even further. They also help the person stay smoke-free. Check the package insert of any product you are using to see if the manufacturer provides free telephone-based counseling.

Most people who smoke want to quit. Nov. 21 is as good a day as any — but there really are no bad days to kick the habit.