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November is National Diabetes Month

Toni-Ann DiSantis

November is National Diabetes Month. Make it your time to take charge of your type 1 or type 2 diabetes for a longer, healthier life.

Preventive care for people with diabetes—and for the risk factors that cause related health problems—has improved significantly over the past 20 years, and people are living longer and better with the disease. But living longer can mean having other health problems longer, too. Good management over a lifetime is the key, starting with the day you're told you have diabetes.

Get in the Know

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant). With type 1 diabetes, your body can't make insulin, so you need to take insulin every day. Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2 diabetes; about 5% of the people who have diabetes have type 1. Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes.

More than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, but 1 out of 4 don’t know they have it. Most people with diabetes—9 out of 10—have type 2 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels.  If you have any of these risk factors, ask your doctor if you should be tested for diabetes. The sooner you find out, the sooner you can start making healthy changes that will benefit you now and in the future.

Risk factors include

Being overweight.
Being 45 years or older.
Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes.
Being physically active less than 3 times a week.
Ever having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds.

Race and ethnicity also affect your risk. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes.

Get on a Wellness Schedule

Every day: stay active, eat a healthy diet, and take medication; check feet for redness, swelling, pain, or sores.

Each health care visit (at least 4 times a year): blood pressure check; foot check.

Twice a year: A1C test; dental checkup.

Once a year: cholesterol test; kidney function test; podiatrist (foot doctor) and eye doctor visits; flu shot (and other vaccines as recommended by your doctor).

Pay Attention to Prediabetes

More than a third of American adults—around 86 million—have prediabetes, and 9 out of 10 don't know it. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Prediabetes can put people at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Without lifestyle changes, 15%-30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years. Take action now—by eating healthier and getting more physical activity—to help prevent prediabetes from becoming type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Living with diabetes is challenging, but it's important to remember that making healthy choices can have a big effect on the course of the disease—and your quality of life.