November is Diabetes Awareness Month – An overview of causes, risks and impacts of diabetes

Seems like more and more people are being diagnosed as ‘diabetic.’ My teenage son has a friend who is diabetic; my father in law is diabetic. Diabetes seems to be everywhere. There’s even a term called ‘pre-diabetic’ that can apply to millions of Americans.

Before working in health care, I had a vague understanding of what diabetes is. Over the last year, I’ve learned a lot more about this disease that over 25.8 million Americans deal with. I’ve talked to our health educators and coaches about diabetes and have learned much from them. I’ve also had the opportunity to talk with some of our members who’ve been impacted by diabetes. In one way or another, diabetes touches all of us.

There is so much information about diabetes out there. But, as this is only a blog post, I wanted to provide some high level insights into the causes, risk factors and impacts of diabetes.

What causes diabetes?

  • Your pancreas doesn’ make enough or any of the hormone insulin (Type 1)


  • The insulin that your body produces doesn’t work effectively (Type 2)

These things can make the level of sugar in your blood too high and can causes diabetes. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and can lead to heart disease, blindness and kidney failure amongst many other health complications.

There are two primary types as well as gestational diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes:

  • Affects how many? Five percent of adult-diagnosed cases
  • How is it treated?  Insulin injections, lifestyle changes
  • When is it diagnosed? Usually first diagnosed in children, teens and young adults

Type 2 diabetes:

  • Affects how many? A whopping 95 percent of diagnosed cases
  • How is it treated? Those with Type 2 diabetes may have to take diabetes medicines and make lifestyle changes
  • When is it diagnosed? Type 2 diabetes can develop at any age

Gestational diabetes:

  • Affects who? Pregnant women during late phases of pregnancy
  • What causes it? Pregnancy hormones or shortage of insulin
  • How is it treated? Will more than likely go away once child is born, but mothers who’ve had gestational diabetes may develop Type 2 diabetes later in life

Studies show that Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by regular physical activity and eating right. Conversely, one may be diagnosed with ‘pre-diabetes’ if their blood sugar is higher than normal.

Certain people may be more likely to develop pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Risk factors include:

  • Age – those over 45 are at higher risk
  • Weight – being overweight or obese can lead to diabetes
  • Genetics – family history may influence risk factors
  • Racial and ethnic background – being African-American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander may put you at higher risk
  • Gestational diabetes – There’s a 35% to 60% chance of a woman developing diabetes in the later in life if they’ve had gestational diabetes
  • Children – Giving birth to a child over 9 pounds
  • Lack of exercise – If you’re physically active less than 3x’s a week may impact your risk

The costs associated with diabetes are staggering. For example,

  • One out of every five health care dollars is spent caring for someone with diagnosed diabetes.
  • In 2007, direct and indirect costs associated with diabetes cost an estimated $174 billion
  • Medical expenses for people with diabetes are more than two times higher than for people without diabetes.

Did you know that every 24 hours:

  • Over 5,000 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed
  • There are 238 limb amputations performed
  • 120 people begin treatment for end-stage kidney disease treatment
  • Nearly 50 people go blind

Are you a diabetic? If yes, we’d love to hear from you to learn more about measure you’ve taken to effectively combat diabetes.

Photo credit: bodytel

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