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November Is Diabetes Awareness Month

Diabetes is a condition in which the body is not able to produce or use its own insulin, resulting in high levels of sugar in the blood. The disease can cause serious health problems including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

In recent years, diabetes has reached epidemic levels in the United States, with much of the population at risk:

  • More than 29 million Americans have diabetes, with 1 in 4 unaware they are affected.
  • Another 86 million adults have prediabetes, where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to classify them as diabetic.
  • Without intervention, up to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop the disease within five years.

There are two primary types of diabetes: Type 1, often called “juvenile” diabetes, and Type 2, referred to as “non-insulin-dependent” or “adult-onset” diabetes. Type 2 diabetes accounts for up to 95 percent of diagnosed cases in the U.S., but it can often be prevented or managed through lifestyle changes (see “How to Stay Healthy” below).

Am I at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes?

Your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes increases as you age or if you are overweight. Other risk factors include having a relative with diabetes, physical inactivity, and your race or ethnicity. For a quick assessment of your risk factors, try this online test from the American Diabetes Association website. (This test does not replace professional medical advice; only your doctor can provide a diagnosis.)

How to Stay Healthy

Simple lifestyle changes, such as those listed below, can help you reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes or help you manage the disease if you’ve been diagnosed. Always discuss any changes in diet or exercise routine with your doctor to make sure they are right for you.

  • Eat healthy foods that are low in fat and calories and high in fiber, especially fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Be more active, getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.
  • Keep your weight in a healthy range over the long term. Visit the National Institute of Health’s healthy weight calculators to see how you compare.

If you’ve been diagnosed as diabetic, your doctor will also schedule periodic screening of your hemoglobin A1C and tests for nephropathy (kidney disease) and retinopathy (eye problems). These screenings are important part of managing diabetes and preventing it from becoming more severe.

We’ve got you covered!

Our 4th District IBEW Health Fund medical plan covers annual checkups at 100% when received from an in-network provider. That’s the perfect opportunity to ask about your diabetes risk factors and get screened. Also, if you’re age 40 to 70 and overweight or obese, it’s recommended that your doctor automatically screen for abnormal blood glucose and refer you to behavioral counseling to promote a healthy diet and physical activity. The plan also covers these services at 100% in-network. If you do receive a diabetes diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe ongoing medications; the plan’s mail-order pharmacy is a more convenient and cost-effective option for receiving maintenance drugs.

Learn More

For a comprehensive overview of this topic, including prevention and treatment options, visit the Member Assistance Program website, sign in and search for “diabetes.” Another valuable resource for diabetes news and information is the American Diabetes Association.