November is National Diabetes Month, a time when communities and organizations across the country team up to bring attention to diabetes and diabetes-related research. This year, the theme is prediabetes and preventing diabetes. Diabetes affects more than 537 million people worldwide and is the ninth leading cause of death globally. With so many people affected by diabetes each year, it’s important to have months like National Diabetes Month, which help raise awareness and educate others on diabetes.
In honor of this year’s National Diabetes Month theme, here’s everything you need to know about prediabetes, and what you can do to help prevent diabetes in the first place.
National Diabetes Month 2021 Highlight: What Is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in three U.S. adults have prediabetes—that’s nearly 88 million people. Of those with prediabetes, 84% are unaware that they have it. Prediabetes increases your risk for several health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke to name a few.
People with type 2 diabetes will almost always have prediabetes first, but not all with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes.
What Causes Prediabetes?
The exact cause of prediabetes is unknown. However, most experts agree that family history and genetics play an important role in your chances of developing early diabetes. A lack of regular physical activity and being overweight with excess fat around your abdomen also seem to be important factors.
What is known about prediabetes is that people with the condition don’t process sugar (glucose) properly. As a result, sugar builds up in the blood instead of doing its normal job of bringing energy to the cells. Moving sugar from the bloodstream to the body’s cells requires a hormone called insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas.
As insulin circulates, it allows sugar to enter the cells and lowers the amount of sugar in the blood. When blood sugar level starts to drop, the pancreas slows down the secretion of insulin into the blood. In people with prediabetes, this process is also broken. The pancreas is either unable to make enough insulin or the cells become resistant to insulin. In both cases, sugar builds up in the bloodstream, which can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
During this year’s National Diabetes Month, raising awareness about prediabetes is the central focus, as it is easily preventable and manageable for those living with it. That awareness begins by understanding the signs of prediabetes, and what you can do to lower your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Signs of Early Diabetes
Spotting the signs of prediabetes can be difficult. That’s because people with prediabetes won’t display any physical symptoms. Oftentimes, people with the condition can for years without knowing, and will only receive a diagnosis after serious health problems like type 2 diabetes show up.
During National Diabetes Month, organizations like the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) stress the importance of recognizing the signs, albeit subtle, of prediabetes. According to NIDDK, some signs of prediabetes to look out for include:
- Darkened skin on certain parts of the body (neck, armpits, elbows, knees, or knuckles)
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Excessive hunger
- Blurred vision
Another important part of National Diabetes Month is understanding the risk factors for prediabetes. It’s important to talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the risk factors for prediabetes, which include:
- Being overweight
- Being over the age of 45
- Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
- Being physically active less than 3 times a week
- Having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
If you or someone you know is at risk for prediabetes, or if they are displaying symptoms, National Diabetes Month may be the perfect time to go and get tested. Thankfully, there is good news for those with prediabetes. By making small healthy lifestyle changes, it is possible to prevent type 2 diabetes and even reverse your prediabetes.
How to Manage Prediabetes and Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
During National Diabetes Month 2021, this year’s focus is on not only educating people about prediabetes but about preventing diabetes as well. There are many different ways to prevent prediabetes from becoming type 2 diabetes.
If you have prediabetes, losing a small amount of weight and getting regular physical activity can significantly lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. A small amount of weight loss typically means anywhere from five to seven percent of your current weight, which is about 10-14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Regular physical activity means getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week.
Another easy way to manage prediabetes and prevent type 2 diabetes is by making small changes in your everyday life. During this year’s National Diabetes Month, NIDDK is helping spread awareness about prediabetes through their lifestyle program called “small steps, big difference.”
The program is all about making small changes that can help prevent diabetes and even reverse prediabetes. Some of the changes include:
Take Small Steps: Making changes to your lifestyle and daily habits can be hard, but you don’t have to change everything at once. It is okay to start small. Remember that setbacks are normal and do not mean you have failed—the key is to get back on track as soon as you can.
Move More: Limit time spent sitting and try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 days a week. Start slowly by breaking it up throughout the day.
Choose Healthier Foods And Drinks: Pick foods that are high in fiber and low in fat and sugar. Build a plate that includes a balance of vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates, and drink water instead of sweetened drinks.
Lose Weight, Track It, And Keep It Off: You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5 to 7 percent of your starting weight.
Seek Support: It is possible to reverse prediabetes. Making a plan, tracking your progress, and getting support from your health care professional and loved ones can help you make the necessary lifestyle changes.
Stay Up To Date On Vaccinations: The COVID-19 and flu vaccines are especially important for people who may be more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 or the flu, such as people with diabetes.
Getting Involved During National Diabetes Month
Getting involved during National Diabetes Month is easy. One of the simplest ways to get involved is by using your voice. Diabetes is a serious health condition that affects millions of people every year, yet there is still a lot we don’t know about it. That’s why it’s important to keep raising awareness for future research and new treatment methods for those struggling with diabetes. By continuing the conversation about prediabetes and diabetes prevention, you can help educate those around you on the importance of National Diabetes Month.
Another way you can get involved during National Diabetes Month is by volunteering with organizations that help raise awareness for those with diabetes. Some of those organizations include the International Diabetes Federation, which is putting on over 150 events in over 50 countries, many of which are virtual. You can also check out the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) event list to find an event near you.
As always, while not necessary, organizations like the ADA and NIDDK are always accepting donations to help fund research and continue raising awareness. Whether you’re helping to educate a friend or attending a fundraiser, getting involved during National Diabetes Month is a great way to show your support, and can help change lives.
How Are You Getting Involved During National Diabetes Month?
Tell us in the comments below!
What topics related to diabetes should we cover next?
Email us your ideas at email@example.com
Are you a member of our online community?
Join today by clicking here.