We Can Change the Future of Diabetes
November is National Diabetes Month — a time to raise awareness about the increasingly widespread diabetes epidemic in the U.S. It’s also a chance to come together and take action, not just for the one in ten Americans who have diabetes, but for the more than 88 million adults — 1 in 3 — who are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to high blood sugar levels (a condition known as prediabetes).
More than 84% of all those living with prediabetes don’t know that they have it, partially because there often aren’t any noticeable symptoms. And while people ages 45 and older are most at risk of developing prediabetes, the condition has become more prevalent in young people in recent years, as childhood obesity — a condition linked to diabetes — remains an urgent health issue in the U.S.
The good news is that simple lifestyle changes can prevent prediabetes from progressing into type 2 diabetes, and possibly even reverse prediabetes. So this November, join us in honoring National Diabetes Month by taking small steps to prioritize your health and raise awareness of diabetes prevention. You can start with the seven actions below.
1. Learn more about diabetes
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes — the two main types of diabetes — involve complications with the body’s relationship to insulin, a hormone that transforms a simple sugar called glucose into energy. However, there are some important distinctions between the two conditions.
In contrast, type 2 diabetes — the type of diabetes that people with prediabetes are at risk of developing — progresses gradually over time due to a mixture of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
National Diabetes Month is an opportunity to educate yourself and others about the different types of diabetes. As a starting point, read our blog post, ‘What’s the Difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?’
(There is also a third type of diabetes — gestational diabetes — diagnosed during pregnancy, which you can learn more about here.)
2. Learn about your risk
Don’t be afraid to learn about your risk for prediabetes — knowing where you stand will allow you to take control of your health. The CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program offers a free risk test and other helpful resources at doihaveprediabetes.org. If you determine that you’re at risk, talk to your doctor so you can assess your risk level and develop a prevention strategy together.
Consider sharing this tool with your loved ones or even via your social media channels, too — raising awareness is the best way to turn the tide on diabetes.
3. Become an advocate
Broader healthcare inequities drive racial and economic disparities in prediabetes and diabetes, which disproportionately impact individuals from underserved communities. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), Black Americans are 60% more likely to receive a diabetes diagnosis.
If you feel inspired to make waves for change, contact your government representatives to advocate for affordable and accessible healthcare for everyone. The ADA has created this online resource to help you reach out to lawmakers in your area and ask them to support legislation designed to end health disparities, from expanding health insurance coverage to making insulin more affordable. You can also sign up as an ADA Advocate to stay informed about issues affecting people with diabetes.
If you or someone you know has type 1 diabetes, you might also consider signing up to become an advocate for JDRF,a nonprofit that funds research and advocates for policies to help people with type 1 diabetes (T1D). According to JDRF, “Advocates use the most powerful tools they have — their own personal stories — to communicate the financial, medical, and emotional costs of T1D to our nation's leaders.”
4. Attend a virtual event
From enlightening talks to a live cooking class, the ADA is hosting some amazing virtual events throughout National Diabetes Month. Ask questions, listen to inspiring stories, and learn tips that can help you live a healthier life.
You’ll also find a slew of virtual events hosted by JDRF on their monthly calendar, including a holiday auction, various meet and greets, and a Q&A session with an endocrinologist.
5. Start one new healthy habit
Anyone can benefit from healthy choices, regardless of their risk for diabetes. This is a great opportunity to work on a new habit throughout the month. Whether you decide to take a daily walk or experiment with healthy kitchen swaps like chickpea pasta or nut-based milk, pick an activity that you actually enjoy and try your best to keep it going.
The jury is still out on how long it takes to solidify a new habit, but one recent study found that it took an average of 66 days before participants felt that new habits like eating fruit at lunch or running for 15 minutes became automatic. Of course, the actual time will vary by person and the perceived effort of the new activity, but the study found that daily repetition during the first few weeks was the key to making the new habits stick.
6. Recommit to your treatment
If you’re currently living with diabetes, use this month as an annual reminder to recommit to your treatment plan. Taking medications as prescribed and keeping up a healthy lifestyle, including proper nutrition and exercise, is an essential part of reducing the impact of diabetes on your long-term health and well-being.
You may want to consider working with a certified diabetes educator. These healthcare professionals have extensive knowledge of diabetes and have been certified to coach individuals living with the condition. Their expertise spans nearly all aspects of diabetes management, from navigating insurance, connecting with support programs, and managing daily life with diabetes.
Read our previous post, ‘What Does a Diabetes Educator Do and How Can They Help You?’ to learn how a diabetes educator can support your diabetes management plan.
7. Find the best pharmacy for your diabetes care
Managing your monthly medications should never be a struggle. Our pharmacists are on call to field medication queries and walk you through doses or injections. We can deliver whatever you need — including insulin, glucose monitors, test strips, and more — directly to your door for free. For more on how we can help, read “The Best Pharmacy for Diabetes Care.”
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and completeness.