THE BLOG
11/14/2014 10:48 am ET Updated Jan 14, 2015

November: National Diabetes Awareness Month

When I was a child, my grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes. Already having a fear of needles, I apprehensively watched her prick her finger to check her blood sugar. I remember squeamishly watching her in the distance as she monitored the glucose levels and took the prick in stride. As I grew older, I learned that both sides of my family had diabetes. The chances of either myself or my brother getting it increased due to genetics. After that, I vowed to do anything possible to help my fight against this health condition.

As many in America worry about the upcoming flu season or possible outbreak of Ebola, a war against another disease is already prominent in our society. I had a right to be concerned back then, as I do now, as one of the biggest continuous health concerns that our society faces today is diabetes. Although the concerns of diabetes have been around for years, it affects a large amount of our population and is increasing with growing concerns of obesity in America. Today, approximately 30 million children and adults have diabetes in the United States. Out of that number, 5 percent have Type 1 diabetes while nearly 95 percent have Type 2 diabetes. As one of the major leading health concerns today, it is important to understand not only what diabetes and the two major types are, but also some of the warning signs to look out for. Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease any further potential complications.

Diabetes, often referred in the medical field as diabetes mellitus, is a diverse disease in which a person has high blood sugar (or glucose), either because their insulin production is insufficient, or because the body's cells do not respond to the self created insulin, or both. Insulin helps control the blood glucose level in the body. The blood glucose level affects the brain, digestive system, nervous system, as well as the endocrine system (which affects the hormones and enzyme regulation of organs). The two most common types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. If untreated or not following the proper physician's recommended treatment, further complications can occur. These complications included possible foot complications, high blood pressure, increased chance of stroke, kidney disease, or HHNS. In some cases, a lack of treatment and proper care can result in possible amputation of the ligaments or death.

When the body does not produce enough insulin, Type 1 diabetes (or insulin-dependent diabetes) develops. Type 1 is often referred to as juvenile diabetes and is diagnosed in children or young adults. Type 1 diabetes creates an autoimmune disease action where the body attacks insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them. Those affected by Type 1 diabetes must take exogenous insulin in order to continue natural bodily functions. If you follow a healthy eating plan, exercise regularly, and take recommend insulin, most Type 1 individuals can lead a normal life.

Obesity in America has nearly tripled. More children are obese now than ever. With obesity comes health risks later in life such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in overweight adults. Those who develop Type 2 diabetes experience pre-diabetic like symptoms, such as unregulated blood sugar levels. Those who have Type 1 and become overweight can later in life risk developing Type 2 diabetes as well. Type 2 individuals need to lead a healthy lifestyle with daily exercise and proper medicated treatment in order to regulate the levels of their blood glucose.

In the past years, First Lady Michelle Obama has focused on her Let's Move Initiative order to help reduce the risks of childhood obesity and it's life altering effects. Affecting almost 40 percent of America's population, obesity is a serious concern that can affect an individual later in life. Two generations ago and before, the average person led a healthier lifestyle. Children walked to and from school and their extracurricular activates each day, played outside with local neighborhood kids, and stayed active. Dinners were healthier and filled with fewer additives. Today, electronic appliances such as tablets, phones, and video game consoles keep kids less active. With the economic recession and our fast-paced lives, people are working more than ever and the quality of food has become less of a concern. With fast food companies promoting cheaper meal options, snacking and less healthy options make it easier than ever to choose less nutrient options.

The common symptoms of diabetes include light headedness, frequent urination, extreme thirst/hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, and slowly healing bruises. Those who potentially have Type 1 may see a change in weight, while those with Type 2 may experience tingling/numbness feelings in their hands or feet. It is important that if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you speak with your main physician and get tested for Diabetes. Although diabetes may increase your risk for many serious health problems, with proper treatment and physician recommended lifestyle changes, many people with diabetes are able to prevent or delay further complications. As November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, be sure to head to a doctor if feeling similar symptoms to those above. Preventative care can help you from further ailments!