November is National Diabetes Month

Diabetes can be a devastating illness. It’s the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States, causing more than 76,000 deaths annually, and even when the disease isn’t fatal, it can have serious consequences: every year nearly 12 million people have to report to the ER due to complications caused by the disease. One of the worst facts about diabetes, however, is that many people who have the illness are unaware. Experts estimate that as many as one-quarter of those with diabetes have yet to be diagnosed, leaving them vulnerable to the gradual destruction of their health caused by high blood sugar.

Because diabetes is dangerous and sometimes overlooked, the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) has named November National Diabetes Month. This event, which has continued uninterrupted since 1975, aims to promote awareness of the disease among the general public and recognize the daily struggle of millions of Americans to stay healthy in the face of this potentially devastating illness.

Spreading Awareness

The main goal of National Diabetes Month is to give physicians, public health officials, and those with diabetes a time to gain the attention of their community. To that end, the NDEP holds events and provides resources to those working to educate their friends and neighbors about the illness. The NDEP has set up a website to promote National Diabetes Month, and this website hosts several useful tools, including posts to publicize National Diabetes Month on social media (including free web posters and Facebook and Twitter cover images), pre-designed wall posters and flyers, and pre-written public service announcements suitable for local radio and television stations.

In addition, the website offers a pre-recorded webinar and videos about National Diabetes Month as well as useful links to other resources about the disease. All of these resources are available free of charge from the NDEP website, and they can all be used without copyright restrictions by people in the health professions and people working to educate their communities.

Managing Diabetes Is Worth It

For 2017, the theme of National Diabetes Month is Managing Diabetes—It’s Not Easy, But It’s Worth It. According to the NDEP, this theme was chosen in order to remind diabetics, and everyone who lives and works with them, of the importance of managing diabetes in order to prevent the host of life-changing complications that go with the disease, including heart attacks, strokes, amputations, vision loss, and kidney problems.

If you’re a diabetic, this year’s theme was also chosen to remind you that you’re not alone. You may already know that the everyday management of the disease is essential: If you have Type I diabetes, which has no cure, your goal is managing your blood sugar and taking good care of yourself, so you can stay healthy. With Type II diabetes, you have the opportunity to potentially reverse it through diet and exercise. Even if you still need medication, you may need far less if you care for yourself the right way. You know too, however, that proper management of diabetes is for most a life-long struggle, and it can feel like a lonely one at times. This year’s theme was chosen to highlight the fact that you’re in community with millions of other diabetics.

Previous National Diabetes Months have focused on other aspects of the disease. In 2016, for example, the theme was “Eyes on Diabetes,” in order to promote wider testing for the illness and reduce the number of undiagnosed diabetics. The year before that, the theme was “Eat Well, America!” in order to remind diabetics of the importance of good nutrition in the management of the disease—and to remind all Americans that avoiding Type II diabetes requires a commitment to maintaining a healthy weight.

Reaching Out to the Community

One of the most important aspects of National Diabetes Month is its emphasis on helping diabetics build a support network. By promoting National Diabetes Month and working with partners to spread the word, the NDEP aims to make everyone involved in the lives of diabetics, from their healthcare professionals to their friends and families, more aware of the challenges that come with the condition and the ways they can help.

One of the main recommendations for diabetics in connection with National Diabetes Month is for diabetics to assemble a group of people who can support them as they fight their disease. National Diabetes Month information recommends creating a network in order to make dealing with diabetes less daunting. Anytime you have to face something alone, that something can seem more frightening or larger than it really is, but with people ready to support you, the same challenges become easier to handle.

To help you build a support network—and, if you don’t have diabetes, to help you be a part of a support network—the NDEP offers a number of excellent resources, including fact sheets on how to support family members with diabetes, information on helping a diabetic student navigate the additional challenges of the school day, resources for dealing with diabetes at work, and a guide that will prepare you to become a “health champion,” someone who reaches out to the wider community to educate people about diabetes.

Even though National Diabetes Month is in November, taking good care of yourself and managing your diabetes risk is important all year round. That can give you peace of mind and help you feel better about your condition. With the right support and understanding, you can manage your diabetes effectively. It’s a daily challenge, but it’s worth it.

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