November is National Diabetes Awareness Month
As you wake from your sugar filled, Halloween sleep and stare at the 7 Smarties wrappers on the counter, it is only appropriate that November 1st marks the first day of National Diabetes Awareness Month. As a little kid with a super-sized sweet tooth, I’ll never forget the day my grandmother pulled out her blood sugar test kit and explained to me, in a level of detail appropriate for a former nurse but terrifying to a six-year-old, why she had to draw blood from her own fingers twice a day, and what it meant when she needed to use a much larger needle to inject herself with insulin.
The reason, of course, was diabetes, the metabolic disease that affects an estimated 26 million children and adults in the United States. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are another 79 million Americans with prediabetes or at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. That means that over 100 million Americans – just under a third of the nation’s 315 million residents (that’s a rounded-up total from the US Census population clock) are affected or likely to be affected by this disease.
In many instances, diabetes is lifestyle induced, a result of our poor eating and exercise habits that have led millions of Americans to be defined as obese (this accounts for the 79 million pre-type 2 diabetes category). We have a health crisis in this country, experts say, one that can only be resolved with major changes in what we eat and how we take care of ourselves.
Children with obesity are in a special class of risk when it comes to developing diabetes. My grandmother knew this, and I am sure it was on her mind when she explained to me when she was drawing blood from her own finger and dripping it into a pre-calibrated test vial (this was in the mid-1980s, I am sure that the testing technology is far more advanced now). I watched in horror as she did this. It seemed awful to have to do something like this to yourself, and I didn’t understand until years later how many people must monitor their body’s insulin production that closely or risk going into hypoglycemic shock.
November is National Diabetes Month, a great time for all of us to educate ourselves about the reality of diabetes, its prevalence in this country, and support our friends with the disease. It also happens to be the start of the holiday feasting season, when we are encouraged to over-indulge ourselves in the spirit of celebration. Before you head down that road this year, take a hard look at your eating habits, your health, and your exercise routine. Get more information about diabetes and the risks of developing the disease from the American Diabetes Association.