World Diabetes Day – November 14

An important awareness post by Cindy

Today’s post has nothing to do with declutter and everything to do with another subject dear to my heart.

As many of you know, my daughter Clara is one of the approximately 3 million people in the United States with Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes. She was diagnosed at her 10th birthday check up. We had no idea that there was anything to be concerned about. Clara had gained weight during third grade until she had become worrisomely plump. In the months leading up to her 10th birthday, she had slimmed down and shot up in height, just like a healthy girl should. We were all breathing a sigh of relief that the “baby fat” was gone. Imagine my shock when our pediatrician told us that Clara had lost 15 pounds in the prior 3 months! The reason took less than one minute to uncover.  You can be sure that was a life-changing day for everyone in our family.

What is diabetes? It has to do with sugar, right?

In diabetes, the body no longer produces insulin (Type 1) or the insulin that is produced is poorly used (Type 2). Insulin is a necessary bridge to transport simple sugars out of the blood stream and into the cells, where it is used for energy. No insulin equals no energy in the cells and an unhealthy build up of sugar in the blood stream. The sugar that the body uses for cellular energy comes from all consumed carbohydrates including carbs from bread, potatoes, fruit, some vegetables, rice, pasta, milk, and yes … sugar. For the diabetic, a bagel is not necessarily a better choice than a cookie.

My neighbor got diabetes when she was a little girl, but my grandma has it too

There are several types of diabetes, and they are not identical. The two main types are:

Type 1 diabetes, also called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes. This is what Clara has. It is important to note that the name “juvenile” is misleading for two reasons. 1) Half the people who are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes are over the age of 18 (although typically younger than 35) and 2) anyone who gets diabetes as a child will still have it as an adult.

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks and kills insulin-producing cells. The reason for this is not known. There is higher rate of Type 1 diabetes in families with the illness, but most people who are diagnosed, including Clara, are the only people in their family with the disease. It is incurable and without repeatedly, daily injections of insulin, it is fatal.

Type 2 diabetes is also called adult-onset diabetes and accounts for at least 90% of all cases of diabetes. The body still produces insulin although sometimes in lower amounts and what is produced is used inefficiently by the body. The diagnosis of type 2 diabetes usually occurs after the age of 40 but can occur earlier, especially in groups of people with high diabetes prevalence, and there is an extremely strong genetic link with Type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, Type 2 diabetes can remain undetected for many years and the diagnosis is often when complications - damage from chronically higher blood sugar - begins to manifest. It is often, but not always, associated with obesity, which itself can cause insulin resistance and lead to elevated blood sugar levels.

Risk factors have been associated with type 2 diabetes and include:

  • Obesity
  • Diet and physical inactivity
  • Increasing age
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Ethnicity, especially African American, Mexican American, and Native American people

I worry I might have diabetes. How do I know?

Individuals can experience different warning signs, and sometimes there may be no obvious warning, but some of the signs of diabetes are commonly experienced:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Lack of interest and concentration
  • Vomiting and stomach pain (often mistaken as the flu)
  • A tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow-healing wounds

A blood sugar (glucose) test can be completed within a minute with just a finger prick. You can often have it done at health fairs or at your doctor’s office. In the US, everything you need to monitor your sugar yourself is available over the counter at the pharmacy. You need a meter (usually about $20) and test strips (sold in bottles of 20 or 50, usually costing $1 each). Normal fasting blood glucose is below 100 mg/dl. A person with prediabetes has a fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dl. If the blood glucose level rises to 126 mg/dl or above, a person has diabetes.

Know your sugar and track them! The onset of Type 1 diabetes is fast and furious, but Type 2 can be slow, slow, slow. You may not be aware of it, but all the while, damage is occurring.

Today, there is no cure for diabetes, but effective treatment exists.  If you have access to the appropriate medication, quality of care and good medical advice, you should be able to lead an active and healthy life and reduce the risk of developing complications, which include:

  • vision problems including blindness
  • kidney problems, including complete failure leading to the need for dialysis
  • numbness of the feet and hands
  • wounds that heal slowly and become infect, sometimes leading to amputations
  • increased high blood pressure
  • increase risk of heart disease

Yikes! I don’t want that! What can I do?

Since the causes for Type 1 diabetes aren’t know, there’s also no way to prevent it. The good news is that it’s relatively rare and unlikely to strike those over 35. To prevent or assist in managing Type 2 diabetes:

  • Stay active
  • Maintain and healthy weight
  • Eat healthy
  • Do not smoke
  • Monitor your sugar levels and be aware of complications possibly developing

The majority of this information can from my own knowledge and the website of the International Federal of Diabetes, which along with the World Health Organization, sponsors World Diabetes Day annually on November 14, the birthday of one of the researchers who isolated insulin, allowing those with Type 1 to live past diagnosis.

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  1. thanks for keeping us aware of important issues.
    I do know a couple of people who have diabetes (both types) and due to their experiences I changed my diet to a healthier one a couple of years ago. I was basically living on soft drinks and chocolate and so on. I got so paranoid that one day I might wake up with diabetes, I changed it – long term. I am still smoking but I hope to change that habit soon as well.

    I wish you all the best with your daughter clara, I really hope that she can take it in a good way, so that she doesnt have the feeling she is missing out on something. Hopefully medicine will find a cure for it sooner than later. I keep my fingers crossed and wish your family all the best!

    • Hi Lena,
      I back what Cindy says. How about making a 2012 New Years resolution here and now to give up the smokes. You can check in here everyday for some encouragement. I would love to be a part of making your life better. They say it only takes 21 days to break a bad habit and the same to develop a better one. So don’t think of the deprivation lasting forever just think that you only have to hang in there for 21 days and you will be on your way to better health and the worst of the cravings will be gone. 21 days you can do it, yes you can!!!!!

      • Colleen,
        Would I be right in guessing you have never been a smoker? I found the 3 month mark far harder to get past. I used to say I was good at giving up smoking – I had done3 it so often! What finally stopped me was being pregnant – you can’t cheat on a fetus! Now 24 years later, I’m still clear. I won’t/daren’t ever smoke again.

        • Yes Ann, you are right I have never been a smoker. I think that was mostly because I had better things to spend my money on when I was at that most vulnerable age when most young people begin smoking. Even to this day I can’t understand why people waste all that money on such an unhealthy habit. The fact that my grandfather was already dead from smoking by the time I was nine and my grandmother had emphysema from it also may have had something to do with that decision. But mostly it was because I wouldn’t have been able to afford the other things I wanted if I was wasting my money on cigarettes. I preferred to go to the rollerskating disco on Friday night, the blue light disco on Saturday and, if I had enough cash left ove,r the matinee session at the rollerskating rink on Sunday afternoon. 😆

          You can see I work through the comments from oldest to newest. When I responded to your previous comment I had no idea you were going to ask this question and yet I ha already answered it.

      • no I cant. I mean thank you for your encouragement, but I fear it wont be fruitful on me. I used my new situation (living alone in a parterre flat) for a smoking habit change already. I dont smoke indoors anymore (which will be a huge challenge as soon as its below 0°C) and I therefore reduced the amount of cigarettes per day around 200 percent. I only smoke when I am drinking or when I am out with other smokers, that is a huge change for me already and I am proud of myself for that.
        I will write my dissertation in the next 6 months and the thought of doing this without smoking is very scary. I am not there yet. And also not pregnant (I know a lot of women stopped smoking because of pregnancy). I like Cindys comment, maybe I will be smoke free this time next year. Lets see 😉

        • Hi Lena,
          well done you for making improvements to your smoking habit but as they say in the lastest Quit Smoking campaign in Australia “Every cigarette is doing you damage!”. I understand your dependency especially if you are using it as a crutch during stressful times but there in itself lies the problem, there will always be stressful times. I wish you luck my friend and I wish you the strength it takes to give it up.

  2. Lena, Thank you for your warm wishes toward Clara. Between the two of us, she manages her diabetes very well. She has the right temperment for it – meticulous, detail oriented, reliable. We both find it annoying at times, but I don’t think she has any feeling of being denied anything except a cookie every now and then.

    Congratulations on your healthy changes. Of course you know you’d be doing every single part of your body a huge favor by stopping smoking. I understand that it can be a very difficult challenge, but I know it can be done, and I encourage you to be a non-smoker by this time next year.

  3. Cindy, I too am a diabetic. While I was diagnosed with type 2 mine was caused by a shut down of my adrenal glands due to the improper prescribing of cortisone. Long story. Anyway, I am always glad to see things like this discussed on blogs. People need to be aware of this disease that is taking over our country rapidly due to poor eating habits and junk food. Thanks for putting this out there.

    • I gave a workshop at church yesterday, and two people told me that they were borderline but were trying to ignore it. They actually told me this after I’d talked about how important it is to catch it early and manage it properly!

  4. I too have several friends who have diabetes and there are a lot of symptoms and side-effects that people are not aware of. It can affect your eyesight, your feet your ability to heal and all sorts of things. Altogether not a pleasant thing to live with if you don’t do all the right things to achieve the best outcome.

    I too wish you and Clara all the best dealing with her diabetes. I know that you have good practices in place and do all the right things so she will be fine. With you as her mom how can she go wrong. Well done both of you!

  5. Thank you for writing about this crucial information. I am a type 2 diabetic, diagnosed at age 49. The American Diabetes Association now predicts that one in three Americans born today will become type 2 diabetics. Please, everyone – be aware of the symptoms and if you have any of them, tell your doctor you want a blood test. Do not delay; waiting will only make things worse.
    Also add to the list of symptoms:
    – dry itchy eyes
    – very dry or cracked skin, especially the fingertips
    And for women:
    – persistent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
    – vaginal yeast infections (yeast organisms love a sugary environment)
    Stress and poor sleep habits can cause blood sugar to soar. High blood sugar destroys the fine capillaries that feed the eyes, the kidneys, the nerves, the heart, and the brain. Long-term diabetes in poor control is a factor in memory loss and dementia.
    Good self-care is absolutely essential to ward off diabetes if you don’t have the disease, or to live healthfully if you do have it.

    • Hi Ella,
      thank you for your contribution to this topic. The more attention brought to this type of desease the more likely people are to do the right thing by their health. Sometimes it needs to be in-your-face to make an impact. And may I say welcome to 365 Less Things.

  6. Thanks for the post Cindy. Clara’s positive attitude is a great testiment to her own character and the excellenting positive parenting she recives I am sure.
    There are a number of well known sports people in the UK who are public about the condition (that they have)and that it doesn’t need to stop you doing anything and they try and help teenagers take better care of themselves, as it seem the is a big problem in this diabetic age group, when the desire to be independent and not different hits as well as hanging out eating junk food and flaky time keeping boundaries.

    I am sure the info in this post will ring bells with someone, either for themselves or someone they love. Good stuff!

  7. Cindy, what a clear and informative post. Diabetes has touched our lives greatly. My late father in law was type 1 being diagnosed when he was entering the R.A.F at 16. He never really took it seriously, of course he injected his insulin, but that’s where the care ended. His diet was all wrong, too much alcohol, and carbs , and after a serious accident 20 years ago left him disabled he gained a lot of weight. He suffered with his eyes, feet and circulation.

    Last year my Mum was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, very quickly she beacame ill and was hospitilised, within 24 hours they had her on insulin. This really frightned me and gave me the kick up the bum to change my lifestyle. Mum and i had similar eating patterns that where not healthy and resulted in a lot of weight gain for me. Febuary this year i decided enough was enough, i am loosing weight slowly and steadily and i never thought i’d say it but i just love the Gym! Sure if i’m going to get type 2 i probably will but i am doing my best ward it off.

    A close friend of mine has a daughter with type 1 diagnosed at 15 months old, and her take on it mystifies me. She says she won’t ruin her childhood and lets her eat anything she wants too. Unbeleiveable. My son has a severe nut allergy that could potentially be fatal, it’s just like me saying ‘ Go on Son, eat a nut, i don’t want to ruin your childhood’

    I wish Clara well, i am sure that with you as her mother, to show her and to guide her that she will have a long healthy and fulfilling life. Her name is adorable, i wanted to call my daughter Clara but hubs wouldn’t hear of it (We settled on Claudia) Out of interest was she named after someone? I watched a film once called Clara’s heart with Whoopie Goldberg and i loved the name ever since!!

    With love and best wishes to you All
    Sharron xx

  8. Excellent post, Cindy. And don’t forget about gestational diabetes, which can develop during pregnancy, and if not treated can affect the baby. Most women with gestational diabetes return to normal after delivery, but are at a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes in later life. Pregnant moms: have your regular doctor checkups as this will catch the problem.

    Clara: you have a great mother!

  9. Thank you everyone for your warm wishes and contribution. What I really want to say to people is: You don’t want this. If you can prevent it, do so.