Written by Katie Harris:
Many of us have
experience with diabetes, whether we have it ourselves, or have a friend or
family member who has it. I work with Healthy Lifestyles, and I know I have
experience with it. Almost two years ago now, my ten year-old brother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. As a growing boy, managing the symptoms have proven challenging. Two years later, and the trial and error continues with balancing blood glucose monitoring, insulin injections, and making sure adults are around to oversee his management.
Much of what we learn about diabetes is so grim and fear
inducing: it’s one of the leading causes of death, it can lead to a long list
of debilitating effects, and it impacts a vast amount of
Americans who have this disease. What if we begin focusing on
empowering those with diabetes by educating, supporting, and advocating? By
doing this, we can help those we know with diabetes and address the negative
stigma which surrounds the disease.
What is diabetes?
There are four different types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes,
Type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and prediabetes. Each type consists of
increased glucose in the bloodstream. However, the cause for these increased
levels are different.
- Type 1 diabetes occurs when one’s
body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas
that takes glucose from the blood and distributes it elsewhere in the body.
When insulin is lacking, glucose builds up in the blood and limits your body’s
ability to use it properly. Those with type 1 are usually children who are
diagnosed yearly on in life.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when one’s
body is not able to use insulin properly. This is referred to insulin
resistance. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood. This is the most common type
of diabetes, worldwide. Type 2 diabetes is usually due to lifestyle
choices and is preventable.
- Gestational diabetes can occur in
pregnant women producing hormones which block the function of insulin in the
mother’s body. This causes elevated blood glucose levels in the blood.
- Prediabetes occurs when blood sugar
levels are elevated, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
With early treatment and management, one can prevent the development of type 2
What test is used to indicate Type 1
and Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes?
The A1C test is a blood test that provides information about a person’s average levels of blood glucose, also called blood sugar, over the past 3 months. The A1C test is sometimes called the hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c, or glycohemoglobin test. The A1C test is the primary test used for diabetes management and diabetes research.
A measurement of A1C 6.5% or higher
on two separate tests indicated that one has diabetes. An A1C between 5.7-6.4%
is an indication of prediabetes. Below 5.7% is considered normal.
How can we support those with
Living with diabetes and supporting those with diabetes can
be emotionally, mentally, and financially taxing. Many times, overwhelming
challenges arise. Here are some tips to support those with diabetes:
Tip 1: Offer help without being the “diabetes police”
It may be tempting to hover and become the “diabetes
police”, but it is important that we all feel we can have autonomy over our own
decisions. Talk to your family member or friend with diabetes and ask how you
may be able to support them best. This may result in some compromise, but once
balance is found, the support needed occurs. Remember: If a glucose reading is
high or low, it is not a reflection on one’s character. It can be very
difficult to manage glucose levels.
Tip 2: Focus on whole foods
Everyone can benefit from a healthy lifestyle, so make it part of your daily life. Participating in healthy behaviors is easier as we do it in groups. Healthy cooking classes can be helpful,
as well as consulting with a registered dietitian to make sure specific needs are met. Avoid junk food by focusing on whole foods for everyone.
Tip 3: Move more together
Incorporate more movement in everything you do makes activity a lifestyle more than a chore. Find activities that your family enjoys to ensure you keep doing them. Make physical activity a priority over the computer or television. For example, on
weekends, participate in outings which include some type of physical activity: walking
around the city, hiking in the canyon, or biking around your neighborhood. Remember we all benefit from activity not just those with diabetes.