Diabetes is a metabolic disease that happens to people everywhere, all year round. But November is a time when several health advocacy organizations aim to draw attention to the seriousness of the condition, what it is, how it can be treated, and how it might be prevented.
American Diabetes Month is an annual observance proclaimed by the American Diabetes Association to raise awareness of diabetes prevention and control, while Nov. 14 each year is the International Diabetes Federation observance of World Diabetes Day (WDD).1,2 In the United States alone, some figures are that 25 million people are living with diabetes and that another 80 or so million more are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
People with diabetes have excessively high levels of blood glucose. Over time and left untreated, the condition can lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness and other health problems. Apart from the toll on a person’s health, the average medical expenditure among people with diabetes is 2.3 times higher than those without the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.
The organization estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion, with indirect costs including disability, work loss, premature mortality that amount to about $69 billion each year. Put another way, about one in 10 health care dollars is spent treating diabetes and its complications, the ADA says.
Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is the term used for a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose, either because the body’s production of insulin production is insufficient, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. People with high blood sugar typically experience polyuria (frequent urination), an increased sense of thirst (polydipsia) and hunger (polyphagia).
There are three main types of diabetes. In type 1, the body does not make insulin, a hormone that helps the body regulate blood sugar. For this reason, people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin on a daily basis in order to live.
In type 2 diabetes, the body does not make or use insulin well. This form of diabetes is the most common, and the data shows that its prevalence has risen along with obesity among the general population. People with type 2 often need to take pills or insulin to manage the condition.
A third type, known as gestational diabetes, occurs in some women during pregnancy. It often disappears after childbirth, but both these women and their offspring have an elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. An estimated 86 million adults have prediabetes, a condition that puts them at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Fortunately, there are many ways those with diabetes can cut down on their chances of developing complications, and for those who may be at increased risk for developing diabetes to prevent it in the first place. A major part of the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control for managing diabetes include maintaining a healthy weight and either remaining or becoming physically active. That includes at least 150 minutes each week of brisk walking, dancing, jumping rope, etc., as well as some form of strength training at least twice a week.3
Strength training can be good for everyone, but it can be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes because it can help lower blood glucose levels and decrease insulin resistance. (It should be remembered that before beginning any physical training program, someone with diabetes should be sure to consult with his or her physician.) Regular resistance exercise acts to increasing glucose uptake by the muscles while helping the body to store glucose in the form of glycogen.
Regular exercise, along with a healthy diet, can directly translate into a better quality of life by allowing someone with diabetes to keep on performing everyday activities such as walking, lifting, and climbing stairs as he or she ages.