November is National Diabetes month, a time to raise awareness about the disorder and ways to live with it.

According to the New York State Department of Health 2015 statistics, diabetes affects 12.2 percent of New York State residents, and 11.4 percent of the population of Livingston County. Both of these numbers are up from 2013. Of this, about 27 percent have no idea that they have diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, the total health care cost for adults older than 18 with diabetes is up 26 percent to $327 billion. For someone with diabetes, the health care costs are 2.3 times that of someone without diabetes.

Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism that leads to a higher than normal blood sugar. The condition is both chronic and progressive. When we eat, our body breaks down food into glucose.

Glucose is our main source of energy and the only source of energy for our brains. Glucose passes into our blood stream where it is available to our cells for energy. Insulin must be present for the glucose to move into the cell. About 1 percent of the pancreas is responsible for producing insulin from Beta Cells and the secretion of insulin should happen automatically when we eat.

Depending on how this process is interrupted or challenged, there are different types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes affects about 5 percent of the diabetic population and those with this type have no insulin production left in the pancreas. The remaining 90 percent to 95 percent have type 2 diabetes where either insufficient insulin is produced by the beta cells or the body’s cells have become resistant to the insulin and don’t use the insulin efficiently or both.

Type 2 diabetes is highest in individuals older than age 65 but is on the rise in our youth.

Gestational diabetes affects women during pregnancy. According to the American Diabetes Association, about one in 20 pregnant women will be diagnosed with this type of diabetes and of this number, about 40 percent will go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

There are a number of risk factors for diabetes. Some we can control and some we cannot.

Risk factors we cannot control include:

Age: The older we get, the more our risk increases.

n Family history: Having a parent or sibling who has or had the disease will increase your risk.

n Ethnic background: Being African American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian American or a Pacific Islander increases the risk.

n For women who experienced gestational diabetes or a baby weighing nine pounds or more, the risk increases.

Risk factors we can control include:

n Weight: Being overweight or obese increases the risk.

n Inactivity: Lack of regular exercise and a predominantly, sedentary lifestyle increases the risk.

What to watch for

The classic signs of diabetes are increased thirst, increased urination, and increased eating with no weight gain. With some types of diabetes, these signs are not present due to the insidious onset of the condition.

Where do you start?

Knowledge is the first step starting with blood sugar. If you are not diabetic but have some of the above risk factors, do you know what your fasting blood sugar is? If you are a diabetic, do you know your HbA1c number?

Armed with answers to the above questions, you are now ready for the next step, prevention and self-management. Both include a lifestyle of maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and eating a well-balanced diet.

If you have symptoms, do not ignore them. Be alert and make an appointment with your health care provider. Get educated about the condition and take charge.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2010 only 57.4 percent of individuals with diabetes took advantage of diabetes self-management classes. In New York State, only 40.9 percent took advantage of this resource.

Local resource

Recognized by the American Association of Diabetes Educators, the diabetes self-management program at UR Medicine Noyes Health is staffed with a RN certified diabetes educator and a RN diabetes educator. The program is available close to home in Geneseo, Dansville, Hornell, and three area health care provider offices. For more information, call (585) 335-4355.

Join me during the month of November as I explain the types of diabetes, new advances in treatment options, and management tools.

Nancy M. Johnsen, RN, is a certified diabetes educator and coordinator of the Diabetes Education Program and Wellness at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville. Johnsen is guest writing the “Got a Minute?” column for Lorraine Wichtowski, a community health educator at Noyes Health, during November. For more information about diabetes, she can be reached at (585) 335-4355.

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