November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Between type 1 and type 2, almost twenty-five million people in America have been diagnosed with diabetes, including both children and adults. On top of that surmounting number, there are seventy nine million people in America with pre-diabetes and at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It’s because of this incredibly large number that National Diabetes Awareness month is so important for increasing knowledge and learning how to live a healthy lifestyle. Luckily, with early detection and awareness, we can actively take steps to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. In order to understand exactly what changes need to be made to our everyday lives to prevent pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes, we must understand the basics of the disease. Continue reading to learn what these basics are and what we can do to protect ourselves.

What is:

Pre-Diabetes: a condition when your blood glucose levels are too high, but not yet high enough to be called diabetes.

Diabetes: a medical condition which causes an individual’s blood sugar levels to become too high. The build-up of sugar, or glucose, in the bloodstream can cause damage to your eyes, kidneys, heart and feet over a long period of time.

Pancreas: an organ located in the abdomen that plays an essential role in digestion and blood sugar regulation.

Insulin: a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar levels by controlling how much glucose is passed from the blood into cells, where it is used as an energy source.

Type 1 Diabetes: a disorder characterized by your body attacking the cells in your pancreas that are insulin-producing, meaning you are unable to make any yourself. It isn’t caused by factors such as lifestyle or diet and is commonly discovered at a young age. 10% of all diabetes cases are type 1.

Type 2 Diabetes: In this form of diabetes, the body stops using and making insulin properly.. Essentially, your pancreas is still making insulin, but your body has trouble sensing the insulin in your blood, meaning it can’t process the sugars into energy.. As a result, glucose builds up and your blood sugar levels rise. This type of diabetes begins most commonly in middle-aged or older individuals and accounts for 90% of all diabetes cases.

The 4 T’s: thirsty, toilet (frequent urination), tired, thinner (weight loss). These are the most common symptoms in undetected cases of diabetes. If you recognize any mixture, or all, of these symptoms, talk to your doctor and get your blood tested as soon as possible.

Type 2 Risk Factors: Certain things put you at a higher likelihood of developing diabetes. Some of these, you cannot control, such as old age, family history of diabetes, and being of certain ethnic and racial groups (African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders). On the other hand, other risks you can control, such as inactivity, being overweight or obese and having pre-diabetes.

Type 2 Prevention

While some risk factors are out of your control, there are steps you can take to minimize others. One of the biggest risk factors that we can control are inactivity and being overweight or obese, as losing weight can cut your risk of getting type 2 diabetes in half. If you’re worried about the possibility of developing diabetes, start by getting your eating habits under control. Be sure to include a variety of foods including vegetables, whole grains, non-fat dairy, healthy fats and lean proteins into your diet. At the same time, limit your intake of sugary drinks like soda and fruit drinks, and processed grains such as crackers or cookies. If you find making big changes to your diet to be overwhelming and impossible, join a science-based weight loss program that can  teach you how to make healthy food choices and track your progress all in one place. The other risk factor you have control over is inactivity, which is the other half to losing weight and ultimately lowering your blood sugar. Getting your body in motion improves your cells’ insulin sensitivity, and allows your cells to take in sugar even if insulin isn’t available. Exercise also depletes muscles of glucose, which forces your body to work to replenish those stores by pulling sugar out of your bloodstream. It’s because of this process that moving your body for at least 30 minutes every day is key for lowering blood sugar.

In honor of National Diabetes Awareness Month, take the pledge to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by increasing activity and cleaning up your diet. This month is meant to educate people, so take this knowledge, apply it to your own life and spread the word as well to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy!