World Diabetes Day 2017

By David Richards posted 6 days ago

Today, November 14, marks World Diabetes Day. A day dedicated to inspire activism and bring awareness about the harmful disease. So before we jump into Thanksgiving festivities just around the corner, first, gobble down some helpful facts and tips to reduce your chance at getting diabetes and to improve your overall health.

The aerial view of the blue ring brings awareness to World Diabetes Day in a park. 

Did you know that more than 30.3 million people in the United States, or 9.4 percent of the population, have diabetes? But what exactly is it? Diabetes occurs when a person’s blood sugar is high, due to the absence of insulin, which turns blood sugar into energy. Over time, too much blood sugar can lead to serious health conditions including, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

There are three common types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Type 1 is when the body does not produce insulin. Type 2, less-damaging than type 1, is when the body does not make insulin well. Gestational diabetes develops in women that are pregnant. Most of the population suffers from type 2 diabetes.

So how can we prevent diabetes? The short answer is through awareness, physical activity and healthy eating, which nearly all HC50 projects address. Although much easier said than done, here is a look at the three topics.

1. Awareness

Knowing the problem is half the battle. Of the 30.3 million Americans living with diabetes, 23.1 million have been officially diagnosed, leaving an astonishing 7.2 million undiagnosed or 23.8 percent. This year’s World Diabetes Day 2017 campaign, from the International Diabetes Federation, focuses on gender. On a global perspective, diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women, causing 2.1 million deaths each year. Additionally, one in seven births is affected by gestational diabetes.

Although the prevalence and severity of the disease varies from place to place, socio-economic factors can play a role. For example, those with lower education level were at greater risk. 12.6 percent of adults with less than a high school education had diagnosed diabetes versus 9.5 percent of those with a high school education and 7.2 percent of those with more than a high school education. Additionally, diabetes rates were comparatively higher in people of color.

2. Physical Activity

Get moving 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent or manage diabetes because it can reduce the sugar in your blood. When you exercise, your muscles can use the sugar, thus reducing harmful levels. Therefore, the body does not have to rely on naturally produced insulin.

In Spartanburg County, South Carolina, the Healthy Schools & Healthy Communities Initiative is working to address obesity and a lack of physical activity through school partnerships. The state of South Carolina suffers from high rates of diabetes.

3. Healthy Eating

Be mindful of what (and how much) you eat. Losing weight and healthy eating controls blood sugar levels. Excess fats and sugars negatively affect the body’s blood sugar and cholesterol. Instead of sugary beverages and fried foods, try to introduce more vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

In Mississippi, another state affected by high rates of diabetes, the Feed the Seed challenge in Gulfport is focusing on growing healthier eating habits. Neighborhoods in the city lack accessible healthy foods, creating a food desert.

While HC50 projects and communities continue to face barriers of lack of resources and lack of political will, your public health initiatives are imperative to combating harmful diseases such as diabetes and improving community health. Keep up the good work.

World Diabetes Day 2017
EndocrineWeb: Type 2 Diabetes and Exercise
NIH: 50 Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
CDC: National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017