Diabetes is a serious, sometimes life-threatening disease. It’s one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States, because over time it can affect every body part and may cause kidney damage, nerve damage, amputations and blindness. So, to raise awareness about this chronic condition, November is observed as American Diabetes Month and November 14 is observed as World Diabetes Day by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO). According to healthfinder.gov, “One in 10 Americans has diabetes – that’s more than 30 million people and another 84 million adults in the United States are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. People who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes can lower their risk if they make healthy changes. Examples of healthy changes include eating healthy, getting more physical activity and losing weight.”
To raise awareness about diabetes risk factors and encourage people to make healthy changes, consider the following this diabetes awareness month:
- Encourage people to make small changes, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking more rather than relying on vehicles, and so on.
- Communicate the importance of getting regular checkups to people in one’s community.
- Get blood pressure and cholesterol checked – and ask the doctor about diabetes risk.
- Ask doctors and nurses to be leaders in their communities by speaking about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity.
The theme for diabetes awareness month and World Diabetes Day for IDF in 2019 is Family and Diabetes. Through this theme, IDF is trying to increase awareness of the impact that diabetes has on the family and support network of those affected. They also want to promote the role of the family in the management, care, prevention and education of diabetes.
According to IDF, “Families are urged to learn more about the warning signs of diabetes and find out their risk of type 2 diabetes. Research conducted by IDF in 2018 discovered that parents would struggle to spot this serious life-long condition in their own children. Despite the majority of people surveyed having a family member with diabetes, an alarming four-in-five parents would have trouble recognizing the warning signs. One-in-three wouldn’t spot them at all.” These findings make it clear that there is need for education and awareness to help people spot the diabetes warning signs early.
Early symptoms may be mild and easy to dismiss at first. They include:
- constant hunger
- a lack of energy
- weight loss
- excessive thirst
- frequent urination
- dry mouth
- itchy skin
- blurry vision
However, as the disease progresses, the symptoms become more severe and potentially dangerous. If your blood glucose levels have been high for a long time, the symptoms can include:
- yeast infections
- slow-healing cuts or sores
- dark patches on your skin, a condition known as acanthosis nigricans
- foot pain
- feelings of numbness in your extremities, or neuropathy
In such cases, it’s very important to see a doctor immediately, because without treatment, diabetes can become life-threatening.
Even though you need treatment for diabetes, you can follow a few tips to manage and control your diabetes which might help lower your chances of having heart disease or a stroke:
- Stop smoking or using other tobacco products
- Manage your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels
- Develop or maintain healthy lifestyle habits
- Be more physically active
- Manage your stress
- Take medicines as prescribed by your doctor
- Follow the schedule of tests and checks recommended by your doctor.
Just as IDF, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) also sponsors a monthly campaign for local and regional advocates to team up and work with partners across the US to raise awareness about the types of diabetes, symptoms, risk factors, and promote healthy living. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization fighting to bend the curve on the diabetes epidemic and help people living with diabetes lead a better quality life. For nearly 80 years the ADA has been driving discovery and research to treat, manage and prevent diabetes, while working relentlessly for a cure.
For the 2019 campaign, healthcare centers, hospitals and other health systems across the US are planning to host a wide range of events like seminars, discussions, and presentations, and share information on social media to raise public awareness about diabetes. People are requested to raise their voice, mark their fist, and share their image via various social media platforms under the hashtag #CountMeInADA. You can become a volunteer and donate your time in helping the diabetic community. Organizations can also participate in this event by sharing photos and/or videos of their employees and their organization in action.
Early diagnosis, effective treatment and ongoing support and management can reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes.