I’m getting lots of reminders that November is Diabetes Awareness Month. And I’m also being reminded that many Americans still don’t understand some basic facts about the disease — even though it affects more than 1 out of 10 of us. That’s 37.3 million people.
First question, what is diabetes? I hear “It’s got something to do with too much sugar” or “It’s because I ate too many sweets.”
In fact, with diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough or cannot properly use insulin, the hormone we need to shuttle energy from our food into our cells. People with Type 1 diabetes produce no insulin. Those with Type 2 diabetes produce insulin, but their body resists its action, hence the term “insulin resistance.”
The result is that life-giving energy (glucose) gets backed up in the blood trying to get to its destination. And that’s how diabetes is diagnosed: abnormally high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood.
What do we do about it? See if you can answer these questions.
1. Type 1 diabetes is:
A. The most common type of diabetes in childhood.
B. Treated with multiple daily shots of insulin.
C. Still without a cure, but we’re getting closer.
Answer: All of these are true.
2. Type 2 diabetes can often be prevented if you:
A. Get more exercise.
B. Lose weight healthily.
C. Get different parents.
Answer: A, B. Even if you inherit the tendency for Type 2 diabetes, exercise and healthy weight loss can help prevent (and treat) it.
3. If you have diabetes, you can
A. Kiss all forms of sugar goodbye.
B. Forget Thanksgiving dinner.
C. Enjoy a variety of foods in the right balance.
4. The three most important ways to control diabetes are:
A. Ignore, hope and pray.
B. Tone down your intake of high carbohydrate foods (sugars and starches), exercise and take medication if needed.
C. No sweets, no fun, no way.
5. Which of these is not a good trade-off for people with diabetes?
A. Honey in place of sugar.
B. Nuts in place of cookies.
C. Sparkling water in place of soda.
Answer: A. Although small amounts of sugar are OK for people with diabetes, all forms must be counted. That includes honey, syrup and other types of added sugars.
6. The best diet to manage diabetes is:
A. Carbohydrate-controlled diet.
B. High-protein diet.
C. What your doctor tells you.
Answer: All may be appropriate, or not. People with diabetes need a diet individualized to their lifestyle and health conditions.
7. What is the best way to approach a new diagnosis of diabetes?
A. Drown your sorrows in a pint of ice cream.
B. Ignore it.
C. Make an appointment with a certified diabetes care and education specialist.
What’s true about diabetes? It can be controlled … if you take it seriously.