National Diabetes Awareness Month: What you need to know.

November 18, 2016

According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States – a whopping 8.3 percent of the population – have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, specifically, is increasingly considered a national epidemic – a health crisis that has hit working class and poor communities with powerful punch. As November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look at the disease and the steps you can take today to help prevent it. 

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which the body has a shortage of insulin, a decreased ability to use insulin, or both. Insulin is important because it allows glucose (sugar) to enter our cells and be converted to energy. When diabetes is not controlled, glucose and fats remain in our blood and, over time, damage vital organs.

The most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. While most cases can be prevented, it remains the leading cause of diabetes-related complications, such as blindness, chronic kidney failure and non-traumatic amputations, among adults.

“Type 2 diabetes most commonly occurs in people who are overweight and over the age of 40. Sadly, the disease is also increasingly appearing in children, because of the rise in obesity in our nation’s youth,” says Lauren Teague, Diabetes Educator and Registered Dietitian at Haywood Regional Medical Center. 

The good news, according to Teague, is that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced with a firm commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

5 Simple Steps to Help Prevent Diabetes

  1. Get moving and stay moving! Regular physical activity can help:
  • Lower your blood sugar and boost your sensitivity to insulin, helping prevent type 2 diabetes by keeping your blood sugar within a normal range;
  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease;
  • Reduce your risk of certain cancers;
  • Control your weight;
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles; and
  • Improve your mental health and emotional health.
  1. Lose extra weight. If you’re overweight, diabetes prevention may be largely dependent on your ability to loss excess weight. In fact, every pound you lose can improve your health.
  2. Make sure you’re getting your daily amounts of recommended fiber, as it may reduce the risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar control. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
  3. And don’t forget about whole grains. Research suggests that whole grains may reduce your risk of diabetes and help maintain blood sugar levels. Try to make at least half your daily grains whole grains. Just look for the word “whole” on pasta products, breads and cereals. 
  4. Talk to your doctor about regular blood glucose screenings. If you’re age 45+ and overweight, or if you’re overweight and have one or more additional risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as a sedentary lifestyle or a family history of diabetes.

“It’s also important to recognize the symptoms of diabetes and talk to your doctor about these and other health concerns,” says Teague.  

According to the American Diabetes Association, symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual thirst
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Extreme fatigue or irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Recurring skin, gum or bladder infections

For more information contact our Diabetes Educator and Registered Dietitian, Lauren Teague, at 828.452.8092 or visit MyHaywoodRegional.com/NutritionEducation.

Haywood Regional Medical Center, a Duke LifePoint Hospital, is located in Haywood County and offers a comprehensive array of services, including orthopedics, spine services, cardiology, general surgery, women's care, emergency medicine, behavioral health, and includes 12 multi-specialty physician clinics. The campus, located in Clyde, is also home to the 54,000 square foot Haywood Regional Health and Fitness Center, the 44,000 square foot Haywood Regional Outpatient Care Center (includes the outpatient surgery center, laboratory, imaging center including women's imaging and physician practices) and nearby, The Homestead, an inpatient hospice facility. Haywood Regional Medical Center also operates two urgent care centers in the county, in Waynesville and Canton.