Today marks the end of Diabetes Awareness Month. What did you learn? Of course the notion of naming a month 'Diabetes Awareness' is in part to draw the public's attention to diabetes. Yet, ask yourself what you learned this month, or this year, that you didn’t know before?
Did you know that approximately 21 million people in the U.S. – 1 in 16 – have diabetes and one-third of them don’t even know it? Out of those 21 million, 19 million have type 2 and 2 million have type 1. Did you know that 54 million more people have pre-diabetes? That means their blood sugar is slightly elevated, yet not enough to be considered diabetes. However most of them, if they don’t change their ways, will get diabetes within five years. Did you know it’s predicted that one in three people born in 2000 will get diabetes? Did you know that every 10 seconds someone in the world dies of diabetes, and two more people get it? Did you know that diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death?
What did you learn about taking better care of yourself? Did you know that insulin controls blood sugar more effectively than pills, even if you have type 2 diabetes? Did you learn doctors hesitate to prescribe insulin because of patient resistance, and that it takes more of their time to educate patients and because of their own ignorance? Did you learn that taking care of your diabetes is up to you, not your doctor? I guarantee you, he or she is not the one who’s going to wake up with complications down the road. Did you know that there’s a new insulin pump called Omnipod that has no plastic tubing and it's controlled via a remote control? Did you know that if you have type 2 diabetes and you’re overweight losing just 10 – 15 pounds or 7% of your body weight could eliminate your need for medication? I have two friends with type 2 who just lost weight and both no longer require their pills. Did you know that exercise is as important as diet to control diabetes because exercise not only burns sugar but makes you more insulin sensitive. This is particularly important for type 2s almost all of whom have insulin resistance. Did you know that?
Did you learn something about managing your head? For instance, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, fearful and crazed at times with all there is to do managing diabetes. You may also feel like your life's falling apart at times taking care of a child with diabetes, but there is help.Did you learn that you can do exactly the same thing two days in a row: eat the same foods at the same time, get the same exercise, take the same amount of medication and get completely different blood sugar numbers? Why? Hormone interaction, variable rate of insulin absorption, getting sick, lasting affect of exercise yadayadayada…Big message: it’s not your fault! Did you learn that it’s actually advisable to take “diabetes vacations” from time to time – skip a blood sugar test or allow yourself dessert here and there, just make sure you prepare and don't put yourself in peril. Did you learn – and this is my personal favorite – that if you shift your focus from the tiresome tasks of diabetes to why you’re doing them – to have more energy, be able to travel in your retirement years, continue a hobby you love or still be here to dance at your grandson’s wedding – that you’ll have more motivation, resolve and pleasure as you go through every day?
Here's a big one: did you learn that diabetes is not a death sentence? That today, unlike decades ago, we have incredible research going on, and the tools, information and know-how to control diabetes, and that if you keep your blood sugars as close to normal as possible much of the time, (an A1c < 6.5) that you can prevent or significantly reduce your risk of complications? Did you learn that this is within your control by getting educated at your local hospital, at a support group, online, joining a diabetes organization, or subscribing to a diabetes magazine. In other words, step up to the plate. Oops, you may also need to step away from the plate. Try controlling portions by using smaller plates, upping your physical activity in small everyday ways like climbing a flight of stairs, parking further away, dancing to the radio, and a big way -- get busy on living your dream.
I hope you learned a lot this month. Finally, did you learn that you have to put what you learned into action for it to make a difference? And that if you do, it will.