November marks National Diabetes Month in the United States, a time to spread awareness of the 30.3 million Americans diagnosed and the 84.1 million people living with higher blood sugar levels than normal—known as prediabetes. These numbers illustrate a significant health crisis, with implications extending to other economic, health and social factors.
Residents of Kansas City are no better off than the rest of the nation when it comes to diabetes. More than 20 percent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) members suffer from diabetes, and treating the disease each year costs Kansas around $2.4 billion and Missouri nearly $6.7 billion. The Kansas City Chapter of the American Diabetes Association reports that more than 293,000 people in Kansas City have the disease—and 69,000 of those are unaware that they do. This issue’s prevalence and its repercussions on the community demand our increased awareness.
And the first step to raising awareness is to know what this disease does to one’s daily life. By understanding the strain and complications it brings to each and every day, we can better comprehend what it means to have diabetes. Awareness also comes from understanding the symptoms and knowing when to get tested. Here’s what you need to know:
What does daily life with diabetes look like?
For starters, it’s important to know the difference between the two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Both forms are chronic diseases that affect the way a body regulates blood sugar (or glucose).
Type 1 diabetes is a progressive autoimmune disease, in which the body makes little or no insulin. The immune system actively fights the pancreas, destroying cells that are responsible for insulin production. While Type 1 diabetes is often referred to as juvenile diabetes, it can affect anyone of any age.
Living with Type 1 diabetes requires you to always be cognizant of food choices and insulin intake. Daily routines—including traveling, going to work, eating and exercising—also require special preparation. Insulin and other diabetes medications designed to lower blood sugar levels may be a part of this daily routine, but they require proper timing and dose sizes to be efficient. A treatment team comprised of doctors, a registered dietitian, and family and friends are essential to staying on track.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease and is what most people think of when they refer to diabetes. With this form of the disease, the body fails to use insulin properly—what is known as an insulin resistance—and over time the pancreas can’t make enough insulin to maintain normal levels of blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes can also affect people of any age, but it tends to be more prevalent among those who are overweight and risks increase as you get older. People can also inherit genes that make them more susceptible to Type 2, but a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk.
With Type 2 diabetes, exercising more and eating nutritiously—controlling portion sizes and creating well-balanced meals—can have dramatic effects on preventing complications and promoting overall health.
What are the warning signs of diabetes?
Early symptoms for both types of diabetes are a result of higher-than-normal levels of blood sugar. You may be at risk for diabetes if you suffer from:
- Chronic hunger and fatigue
- Dry mouth
- Itchy skin
- Excess thirst
- Blurred vision
- Numbness in your feet or legs
- Yeast infections
- Unplanned weight loss
What can I do?
Fortunately, Kansas City residents have a host of resources that can help address and prevent diabetes. As of June 2018, Blue KC’s preventive care benefits now include coverage for diabetes prevention programs (DPP). A DPP is a structured lifestyle change program designed to help participants lose weight, adopt healthy habits and reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Make the most of National Diabetes Month this November and help share the facts about diabetes.