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Putting the Brakes on Diabetes

  • Published
  • 9 November 2022
  • Category
  • General

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. It’s critically important to recognize that you can have diabetes or prediabetes and not realize it, putting yourself at risk for serious illness.

Diabetes is prevalent. It’s also costly in terms of its affect on quality of life and productivity. Diabetes and related conditions cost employers billions of dollars a year in lost work time, medical treatment and disease-related disability.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce the amount of insulin the body needs to function properly. Insulin is a hormone that lets glucose in consumed food pass from the blood stream into cells to produce energy. Blood glucose levels rise when this process is disrupted, causing hyperglycemia or high blood sugar.

There are three types of diabetes: type 1, when the body does not produce enough insulin; type 2, when the body does not effectively use insulin; and gestational, which occurs during pregnancy. An estimated 35 million Americans have type 2, representing 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes can affect vision, the liver, kidneys, circulatory and cardiovascular systems, and it is associated with increased risk for depression, anxiety and eating disorders.


Prediabetes indicates the potential to develop type 2 diabetes. Blood sugar is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be type 2. Symptoms are not usually apparent.

Contributing factors for prediabetes include family history and genetics, lack of regular physical activity and being overweight with excess fat around the abdomen. An estimated 88 million Americans (more than 1 in 3 adults) have prediabetes; about 85 percent don’t realize their blood sugar levels are higher than normal and that their health is at risk.

The combination of three or more prediabetic conditions is metabolic syndrome. For example, co-occurrence of obesity, high blood pressure, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) “good” cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, is associated with resistance to insulin.

Preventing Diabetes

Progression from the absence of diabetes to prediabetes to type 2 diabetes can be slowed by paying close attention to your health, diet, exercise routine and body weight. Here are some related recommendations:

  1. Get a blood sugar test. If you have prediabetes, work with your doctor to make necessary lifestyle changes.
  2. Take medications as recommended to control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, if prescribed.
  3. Choose fresh foods lower in calories, saturated fats, trans fat, sugar and salt, and eat at regular times. Limit juice, soda and alcoholic beverages.
  4. If you are unused to physical activity, start slowly and build a base, or maintain your regular exercise routine.
  5. If you smoke, get help to quit. Smoking is linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke.

Diabetes Diagnosis

A type 2 diabetes diagnosis is confirmed with a blood test. People with diabetes need to periodically check their blood sugar level to make sure they stay in the correct range. It is also essential to learn how to recognize symptoms of high blood sugar (including fatigue, thirst, blurry vision and frequent urination) and of low blood sugar (including shaking, sweating, nervousness or anxiety, irritability, confusion, dizziness and hunger).

People with type 2 diabetes who have difficulty managing high blood sugar levels are advised to:

  • Check their urine for ketones, which are produced when fat is broken down for energy; ketones can cause a blood sugar spike and lead to serious complications
  • Take prescribed medicine consistently and as instructed
  • Talk with their doctor about adjusting how much and which type of insulin they take
  • Consistently follow their healthy meal plan

To manage low blood sugar, people are advised to:

  • Take flour glucose tablets
  • Drink four ounces of fruit juice or regular soda (not diet)
  • Eat four pieces of hard candy

Mental Health

Successful diabetes management largely depends on the person. Tracking blood sugar levels, dosing insulin, planning healthy meals and staying active can be stressful. It is normal to feel overwhelmed or isolated when dealing with this responsibility, particularly when a blood test has just confirmed a diagnosis.

It helps to set reasonable diabetes management goals. There are many diabetes management resources available through company health plan, peer groups and community organizations. Research shows that people with diabetes who reach out for support do better with managing their condition than those who feel isolated by their disease.


American Diabetes Association

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Diabetes Basics

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases