November is National Diabetes Month!
First designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, National Diabetes Awareness Month recurs every November to raise awareness of the disease which affects more than 30 million people in the U.S alone. This year’s theme is gestational diabetes which occurs in women who are pregnant, even if they’ve never shown signs of diabetes before.
Diabetes is not new. In fact, the World Journal of Diabetes claims it was first accurately described in the 2nd century AD. In those early days, diabetes was a death sentence as doctors had no way to cure it or to help patients with the disease. That all changed when researchers in the late 1880s found a chemical was missing from the pancreas of those with diabetes. Flash forward to 1921 when Frederick Banting figured out that chemical was insulin and learned how to remove it. His colleagues J.B. Collip and John Macleod found a way to create refined and pure insulin. The results were earth-shattering and the duo of Banting and Macleod received a Nobel Prize in 1923. Since that time, diabetes diagnosis and treatment have been further researched and refined. We are recognizing Banting’s achievement through a new line of merchandise available for purchase so you can celebrate his discovery again and again.
Just what is diabetes?
The most common diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. In Type 1, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin and for Type 2, the body does not process the insulin it makes efficiently. Insulin breaks down carbohydrates into blood sugar which is what gives us energy.
According to the CDC, gestational diabetes occurs in from 2 to 10% of pregnancies each year. Like Type 2, with gestational diabetes, the body can’t process insulin correctly because the body’s cells become insulin resistant. The hormonal changes and weight gain that are part of pregnancy are partly to blame, but there are risk factors:
- Having gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
- Having given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9lbs
- Being overweight
- Being more than 25 years old
- Having a family history of Type 2 diabetes
- Having a hormone disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Being of African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander descent
The good news is that often gestational diabetes disappears after pregnancy, and it can be managed through regular blood sugar monitoring, diet, and exercise, or, if needed, your doctor can prescribe medication. The bad news is having gestational diabetes during pregnancy increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes for both you and your child. As with any type of diabetes, knowledge is power, so testing for diabetes should be a regular part of your pregnancy health care plan.
National Diabetes Awareness Month is meant to raise awareness, but we also like to think it’s a time to celebrate how far we’ve come in treating the disease and helping those with diabetes live their best lives.
Testing Blood Glucose Levels
Whether you find them simply annoying or they leave you passed out on the floor, blood tests are the only way to determine if you have prediabetes or diabetes.
There are a few tests that can be performed to test blood glucose levels, either as part of your annual wellness blood screening or on their own if you are at higher risk or have symptoms that could indicate diabetes.
- Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test is done after at least 8 hours of fasting where the patient has had nothing to eat or drink except water. These tests are generally done in the morning.
- Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) is another option. This one takes about two hours to perform as blood is tested before and after the patient consumes a special sweet drink. The doctor is able to see how your body processes sugar.
- The Random or Causal Plasma Glucose Test is, as it says, a test that can be done anytime and is used for patients that are showing severe symptoms of diabetes.
- A1C is the latest breakthrough in testing. It provides not just a snapshot of blood sugar levels at a given time, but an average of your levels over a month or two. The A1C test can be given at any time, and because it gives an average over a span of time, it more accurately shows your day-to-day levels.
According to the American Diabetes Association test results that would indicate prediabetes are an A1C of between 5.7 and 6.4%, a fasting blood sugar of 100 to 125 mg/dl, or an OGTT between 140 mg/dl and 199 mg/dl. If your results show elevated levels, your doctor will always request a second test to see if the levels remain high or if the one spike was a fluke.
Take Charge Of Your Health
In recognition of National Diabetes Awareness Month, now would be a good time to set up a blood test and also learn your risk factors that can include:
- Being overweight
- Being older than 45
- Being inactive
- Having a parent with Type 2 diabetes
- Having been diagnosed with prediabetes
Remember, if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you are not alone, and unlike the days before insulin was discovered, diabetes can now be fairly easily managed through lifestyle changes and regular blood glucose monitoring. Even blood sugar checks have evolved with vacuum technology and the significant pain reduction you get exclusively with the Genteel Lancing Device.
National Diabetes Awareness Month is meant to raise awareness, but we also like to think it’s a time to celebrate how far we’ve come in treating the disease and helping those with diabetes live their best lives. Read on to hear how Genteel has helped the amazing people in our community do just that.
“I just got the Genteel Lancing Device and it's become one of my favorite things in my diabetes kit! It's so easy to use, and the lancet doesn't hurt at all...I don't get that anxious feeling before I draw blood anymore. It has helped me not hesitate as much”
"Genteel is AWESOME! It solves a real problem for type 1 diabetics like me by getting rid of the pain of pricking my fingers to draw blood. The product is designed so well, and the team at Genteel is world-changing, both in knowledge as well as in kindness. I would legitimately recommend Genteel to anyone struggling with diabetic finger prick pains.”