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What to know about diabetes

Joan Hatem-Roy, Chief Executive Officer

November is National Diabetes Month, but how much do you know about diabetes? Most of us have heard that it’s a serious disease that involves an imbalance of the body’s blood sugar and can require some people who have it to take insulin. But did you know that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control?

Quick facts about diabetes

More than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes. and 1 in 5 of them don’t know they have it.

More than 88 million US adults have prediabetes, and more than 84 percent don’t know they have this condition. Prediabetes raises a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

During the last 20 years, the number of adult Americans diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled as our population has aged and become more overweight.

Diabetes

According to the CDC, diabetes is a long-lasting health condition that affects how the body turns food into energy. Most of the food we eat is broken down into sugar, also called glucose, and then released into the bloodstream. When your blood sugar rises, it alerts your pancreas to release insulin. This allows the blood sugar to enter your body’s cells, where it can be used as energy. Diabetes disrupts this process so that body can’t make enough insulin or use the insulin as effectively as it should. As a result, too much blood sugar remains in the bloodstream. Over time, experts say, this excess sugar can trigger serious health problems, including heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

The three types of diabetes

The CDC says diabetes comes in three types: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused when the immune system mistakenly attacks itself, stops the body from making insulin. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of diabetics have type 1. They must take insulin every day to survive. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often develop early in life, in children, teenagers, and young adults. At present, it has no cure.

Type 2 prevents the body from using insulin well and keeping blood sugar within a normal range. About 90-95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2. The disease develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults, although it has been occurring more and more in children, teenagers, and young adults. The disease can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes such as losing weight, diet, and being active.

Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women who have not previously had the disease. Babies born to women with gestational diabetes are at a higher risk for health problems such as obesity and, eventually, type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes often goes away after a baby’s birth but can increase a mother’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes later on.

If you have diabetes or want to learn more about it, our Healthy Living Center of Excellence offers programs to help with people diabetes and other chronic diseases improve managing their health through diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices. These programs are free of charge. Find out more by contacting the Center at https://healthyliving4me.org/programs/ or 978-946-1211. November, National Diabetes Month, is a great time to begin!

Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.ESMV.org for more information. You can also call us at 800-892-0890 or email info@esmv.org. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore.