Hearing the words, “you have diabetes” can be difficult — even devastating — to accept. But diabetes doesn’t have to be a hopeless diagnosis. Understanding your type and hands-on ways to manage it can make a big difference in living with diabetes.
Having a sense of control can be comforting. And it’s important to remember that there’s a global community in your corner to offer support and drive research forward. This month, diabetes is in the spotlight. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, with World Diabetes Day on November 14. Now’s the time to learn how to live your best life with diabetes.
Diabetes: Names, faces and facts. Anybody can get it. Here are a few famous faces living (well) with diabetes: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, musician Nick Jonas and former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.1 They’ve spoken powerfully and publicly about the physical and emotional hurdles they’ve overcome as diabetics. And they’re just a few in a sea of millions affected by the disease:
- Prevalence: Approximately 30 million adults and children have diabetes in the United States.2
- Undiagnosed: Of the 30.3 million adults with diabetes, 23.1 million were diagnosed, and 7.2 million were undiagnosed.2
- New cases:5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.2
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, or blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps transport glucose from food to your cells for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough — or any — insulin, or it doesn’t use insulin well. If that happens, glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells. Over time, that can cause health problems, like heart disease and stroke, foot problems and eye disease. Managing your blood glucose, as well as your blood pressure and cholesterol, can help prevent diabetes-related health problems.3
What’s your type?
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, not a lifestyle disease, in which the body does not produce any insulin. It doesn’t discriminate between age, race, size or shape — anybody can get it. 1.25 million Americans have it and 40,000 people will be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes this year.4
Currently, there’s no cure for Type 1, but with the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, you can learn to manage your condition. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in living well and feeling good.
What are the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes?
It’s important to pay close attention to the signs and symptoms of Type 1 diabetes. Some may be easy to miss — or dismiss — as something minor. They can appear quickly, and may include:5
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Bed-wetting in children who previously didn't wet the bed during the night
- Extreme hunger
- Unintended weight loss
- Irritability and other mood changes
- Fatigue and weakness
- Blurred vision
All about Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Of the 415 million diabetes cases globally, 90% are estimated to be Type 2, which means that your body doesn’t use insulin properly.4 And while some people can control their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise, others may need medication or insulin to help manage it. Everybody’s treatment plan is as individual as they are.
With Type 2, the pancreas initially produces extra insulin, but eventually cannot keep up with production in order to keep blood sugar levels in check. Without insulin, sugar stays in the blood and can cause serious damage to the entire body.
Risk Factors for developing Type 2 diabetes. These can be factors for developing Type 2 diabetes, but they’re not exclusive causes:
- Lack of physical activity
- Genetic predisposition
Testing, testing: Your blood sugar.
Regardless of which diabetes type you have, knowing your blood sugar levels is critical. Blood sugar testing — or self-monitoring blood glucose — provides useful information for diabetes management.6 Testing can be done a number of different ways. The most common way to test is with an easy, portable meter, like the Medline EVENCAREⓇ G2 Blood Glucose Monitoring System with Voice Guidance. Alternatively, your doctor may recommend a continuous monitoring system using an insulin pump. Whichever method is right for you, blood sugar testing can help you:
- Judge how well you're reaching overall treatment goals
- Understand how diet and exercise affect blood sugar levels
- Understand how other factors, such as illness or stress, affect blood sugar levels
- Monitor the effect of diabetes medications on blood sugar levels
- Identify blood sugar levels that are high or low
How much do you know about blood sugar? Even if you don’t have diabetes, it’s important to know how sugar affects your body and what blood sugar levels are healthy — and unhealthy. Take our Blood Sugar IQ Quiz to test yourself and learn more.
Before you test your blood sugar at home, you’ll need some additional supplies to ensure a safer, cleaner process. Here’s a checklist of all the essentials to stock up on before you get started:
5 simple ways to keep your diabetes in check
Working closely with your doctor, you can manage your diabetes by focusing on five key lifestyle changes that are well within your control.7
- Eat healthy. Everything you eat affects your blood sugar. While no foods are strictly off-limits, it’s important to eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Remember that carbohydrates turn into sugar, so watch your carb intake. That includes alcohol.
- Exercise. Your goal should be 30 minutes of any activity that makes you break a sweat most days of the week. An active lifestyle helps you control your diabetes by lowering your blood sugar, reducing your chances of getting heart disease and easing stress.
- Get checkups. See your doctor at least twice a year. Get a full eye exam every year, and visit a foot doctor to proactively check for ulcers and nerve damage. Remember that diabetes raises your odds of heart disease, so learn your A-B-Cs:
- A1c (average blood sugar over 3 months)
- Blood pressure
- Manage stress. When you're stressed, your blood sugar levels spike. And when you're anxious, you may not manage your diabetes well. Find ways to relieve stress and reach out to your doctor or someone you trust for emotional support.
- Stop smoking. Diabetes makes you more likely to have health problems like heart disease, eye disease, stroke, kidney disease, stroke, nerve damage and foot problems. If you smoke, your chance of getting these problems is even higher.
Your diabetes diagnosis is the first step on a journey to learn how to take better care of yourself. When you know how to manage your diabetes, the power is in your hands to make positive changes for a long, healthy life.
- Celebrities With Diabetes, WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/ss/slideshow-celebrities-with-diabetes.
- Statistics About Diabetes: American Diabetes Association: https://www.diabetes.org/resources/statistics/statistics-about-diabetes. 3. What Is Diabetes, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes.
- Diabetes Overview: American Diabetes Association: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes.
- Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms and Causes, Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-1-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-2035301.
- Blood Sugar Testing: When, Why and How, Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/blood-sugar/art-20046628.
- Lifestyle Changes to Control Your Diabetes, WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetes-lifestyle-tips. All sources accessed October 18, 2019.