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Information & Caregiver Resource Corner

What to know about diabetes

National Diabetes Awareness Month

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (CDC), “more than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, but one out of four of them don’t know they have it.” Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects how your body turns food into energy.  

Q: How do find out if I have diabetes?

A: Ask your primary care physician to test your blood sugar to find out if you have diabetes.

Testing is simple, and results are usually available quickly. The sooner you find out, the sooner you can start making healthy changes that will benefit you now and in the future.

Healthy Living diabetes self managementDiabetes Self-Management helps people better manage their diabetes by exploring together with peers topics like stress management, healthy eating, exercise, skin and foot care, preventing and delaying complications, monitoring blood sugar, preventing low blood sugar, strategies for sick days, dealing with depression and difficult emotions, and more. Learn more by contacting the Healthy Living Program at LifePath.

There are three main types of diabetes:  

Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).  

Type 1 diabetes 

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction that stops your body from making insulin. Type 1 diabetes often develops quickly. It’s usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. If you have Type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to take insulin every day to survive. Currently, no one knows how to prevent Type 1 diabetes.

Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes:
  • Family history
  • Age
Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is when your body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. 

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes:
  • Have prediabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Are 45 years or older
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with Type 2 diabetes
  • Are physically active less than three times a week
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk)

You can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes with lifestyle changes such as losing weight (if you’re overweight), eating a healthier diet, and getting regular physical activity.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes.

Risk factor for gestational diabetes:
  • Had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
  • Have given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Are overweight
  • Are more than 25 years old
  • Have a family history of Type 2 diabetes
  • Have a hormone disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander

Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born but increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life. Before getting pregnant, women may be able to prevent gestational diabetes by losing weight (if overweight), eating a healthier diet, and getting regular physical activity.

Symptoms of diabetes

Be proactive and see your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the following diabetic symptoms:

  • Urinate a lot, often at night
  • Are very thirsty
  • Lose weight without trying
  • Are very hungry
  • Have blurry vision
  • Have numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Feel very tired
  • Have very dry skin
  • Have sores that heal slowly
  • Have more infections than usual

Things to remember if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes:  

  • Follow a healthy eating plan
  • Get physically active
  • Test your blood sugar
  • Take prescribed medications
  • Monitor your feetskin, and eyes to catch problems early
  • Get diabetes supplies and store them according to package directions
  • Manage stress and deal with daily diabetes care
Work with your doctor to manage your diabetes ABCs:
  • A — the A1C test, which measures average blood sugar over two to three months
  • B — blood pressure, the force of blood flow inside blood vessels
  • C — cholesterol, a group of blood fats that affect the risk of heart attack or stroke
  • s — stop smoking or don’t start

Talk with your doctor about what diabetes self-management education resources are available and to recommend a diabetes educator or nutritionist. You can also search the American Association of Diabetes Educators’ nationwide directory for a list of educators in your community. 

The Healthy Living Program at LifePath

Healthy Living can help you manage chronic health conditions like diabetes as well as learn ways to eat healthier, exercise more, and develop healthy habits. For more information, contact Healthy Living.

Remember that eating a healthy diet, being physically active, taking medications if prescribed and keeping healthcare appointments can help you stay on track. Here’s to managing your diabetes.