National Diabetes Month: a time for awareness and education for better health

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By Carrie Weitzel | Healthy Archuleta

It might seem ironic that the month after Halloween is dubbed National Diabetes Month, but contrary to popular belief, eating sugar on special occasions is not directly linked to the development of diabetes. In fact, there is much more to it than that.

There are several types of diabetes and all develop under different circumstances:

Type 1 diabetes tends to occur early in life as an autoimmune disease, usually between 10-13 years old. This is when the pancreas stops producing and secreting insulin. Insulin is needed to help get blood sugar into our body’s cells for energy. This requires insulin injections for blood sugar management.

LADA stands for latent autoimmune diabetes in adults. This is when Type 1 diabetes develops later in life, usually around 30 years and older. It can often be mistaken for Type 2 diabetes for this very reason.

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and is often caused by a surge in hormones. It usually goes away once the baby is born, but it does increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.

Type 2 diabetes occurs later in life and is a result of untreated insulin resistance. The pancreas may not be secreting as much insulin and/or the body’s cells are not using the insulin appropriately making blood sugars build up in the bloodstream. This type is one of the most common, affecting more than 34 million Americans.

Prediabetes is like a warning sign. Often associated with insulin resistance, this is when action needs to be taken to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. To know your risk of developing diabetes, you can take a free quiz on the American Diabetes Association website at https://diabetes.org/diabetes/risk-test.

If you struggle with high blood sugars, a good place to start lowering them is to reduce your carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates are primarily found in milk products, fruit, breads, pastas, desserts, beans, corn, peas and potatoes, to name a few. That doesn’t mean all of these foods are bad or should be avoided. Instead, limit how much of them you have, but don’t go too low either. Diets like keto and Atkins tend to restrict carbohydrates too much, which can actually backfire efforts to control blood sugar.

This year’s focus for National Diabetes Month is on building your health care team to help you better manage your blood sugar readings. Having a dietitian or certified diabetes educator in your corner is one of the most important things you can do for better blood sugar management. They can help you fine-tune your blood sugar readings, which can lower your risk for diabetes complications like kidney disease, eye problems, foot ulcers and heart disease.

Everyone who has diabetes is different, which means managing blood sugar is often different for each person. What works for you may not work for someone else, which is why it’s important to get individualized support. If you or someone you know is struggling with managing their blood sugar, seek help through your doctor and ask for a referral to a dietitian or certified diabetes educator.

Carrie Weitzel is a registered dietitian and owner of a nutrition counseling business. Weitzel collaborates with Healthy Archuleta on advancing nutrition security and health equity. She is located in Arvada, Colo., where she helps adults lose weight, manage their blood sugar and improve their heart health with the goal of reducing the need for medication. Her philosophy on nutrition is that every food deserves a spot on the table — it’s all about moderation for long-term success.