National Diabetes Month is observed every November. Its purpose is to raise awareness and create a sense of importance about this increasing public health problem. This year’s theme is “This is Diabetes”. There are twenty-nine million Americans who live with diabetes every day. Diabetes causes more deaths than AIDS and breast cancer combined. One in eleven Americans has diabetes today, and every 23 seconds, someone in the United States is diagnosed with the disease. Additionally, there are eight-six million Americans who are at risk for getting diabetes. This disease is the seventh leading cause of death, and the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure and stroke.

Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which the body is unable to produce any or enough insulin to transform glucose into energy. When you eat, your body turns food into sugars, or glucose, and at this point your pancreas is supposed to release insulin. The pancreas is the organ in the body responsible for producing insulin. It is this insulin that opens the cells of your body to allow glucose to enter allowing your body to use the glucose as energy.

There are two basic types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas does not produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes results when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Type 1 is the more severe form, and is often called “juvenile” diabetes because it usually develops in children and teenagers, though it can develop at any age. Type 2 diabetes is also called “adult onset” because it usually develops after age 35. Another type of the disease is gestational diabetes, and is a result of the insulin being less effective during pregnancy.

Choosing and eating healthier foods and participating in more physical activity are important for all of us, and is especially important for those with diabetes or who have a family history of the disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors, choosing fish, lean meat, and chicken and turkey without the skin, eating fewer high-fat foods, baking, broiling, or grilling instead of frying, choosing whole grain foods and drinking water instead of juice and regular soda are suggested for all, but particularly for diabetics. Reducing portion sizes are also important when eating.

Moving more and sitting less can also help. Find ways to move more. Add more activity every day until you reach at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. It can be as simple as starting with 10 minutes a day if you are not active and gradually increasing that time. Always remember that before you begin any type of exercise or physical activity routine, you may want to consult your doctor.

If you have diabetes, it can be managed. Work with your healthcare professional, learn about the disease, know your diabetes ABC’s---A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol, eat healthy, stay active, and get routine healthcare.

For more information on this topic or nutrition information, contact Robin B. Landry, Area Nutrition Agent with the Assumption Parish LSU AgCenter at (985) 369-6386 or rlandry@agcenter.lsu.edu.