Every November, people with diabetes, health care professionals, and patient organizations across the United States take part in National Diabetes Month. The event is to raise awareness of diabetes, and the impact it has on millions of Americans.

National Diabetes Month is important as more than 29 million Americans have diabetes, yet 1 in 4 of these people are unaware that they have the condition.

In 2017, the theme for National Diabetes Month is Managing Diabetes – It’s Not Easy, But It’s Worth It.

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The theme for 2017 serves to remind people with diabetes that although managing the condition is difficult, they’re not alone.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) explain that 2017’s theme highlights the importance of managing diabetes to prevent diabetes-related health problems.

For example, people with diabetes are twice as likely to have a stroke or get heart disease compared with people who do not have diabetes. They are also more likely to develop these conditions at an earlier age than people without diabetes.

People with diabetes are at increased risk of kidney problems because high blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys over time. This damage can occur long before a person starts to experience any obvious symptoms.

Diabetes can cause damage to the nerves and blood vessels, leading to serious, difficult-to-treat infections, particularly in the feet. In some cases, amputation may be needed to stop the infection spreading to other parts of the body. Damage that diabetes causes to blood vessels in the retina can also lead to vision problems and even blindness.

The NIDDK say that the theme of National Diabetes Month for 2017 is to remind people who may be struggling with managing diabetes that they are not alone.

National Diabetes Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about the risk factors for diabetes, and to encourage people to make lifestyle changes. This is important because people who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes can cut their risk in half by eating healthful foods, increasing physical activity, and losing weight.

A good way to engage with National Diabetes Month is to encourage people in the community to get their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly. It is also a good opportunity to ask their doctor about their diabetes risk.

For people who already have diabetes, National Diabetes Month is a good way to “put care on the calendar.” For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people with diabetes should schedule annual cholesterol and kidney function tests, podiatrist and eye doctor visits, and a flu shot. National Diabetes Month could serve as a reminder of the importance of these.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences (HHS) suggest the following activities could help support the message of National Diabetes Month:

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One way to raise awareness and help people struggling with diabetes is to host a diabetes-friendly cooking class.
  • Host a diabetes prevention party at your local gym. Gym staff could teach a free class, host demonstrations, or give away gym passes.
  • Give a presentation on how to prevent type 2 diabetes at your local church or community center’s next health event.
  • Involve local nutritionists in a class on how to cook diabetes-friendly recipes.
  • Encourage your colleagues or employees to be more active by organizing lunchtime walks or similar.

The HHS also supplies a range of pre-written Tweets that can be shared on Twitter during National Diabetes Month, and which link to helpful diabetes resources. These include:

Also occurring in November – on the 14th of the month, every year – is World Diabetes Day, which is coordinated by the International Diabetes Federation.

World Diabetes Day is observed by people across the globe, and a range of diabetes-related activities and events are typically scheduled for that date. These include meetings, lectures, sporting events, television and radio programs, flyer and poster campaigns, exhibitions, and conferences.

A high-profile tradition of World Diabetes Day is for famous buildings around the world to be illuminated by blue light, which is the international color for diabetes. Famous architectural landmarks that have participated in the past include the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois, the London Eye in the United Kingdom, and Brisbane City Hall in Australia.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. It is a condition that means the body is unable to make insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. However, the other main type of diabetes, type 2 diabetes, can be prevented. This involves a person who is at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes making lifestyle and dietary changes.

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Diabetes awareness is essential to make sure more people do not develop type 2 diabetes, a preventable condition.

Around 9 out of 10 people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, so diabetes prevention strategies and awareness campaigns are vital from a public health perspective.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • being overweight
  • being aged 45 years or older
  • having a close family member with type 2 diabetes
  • exercising less than 3 times a week
  • having had gestational diabetes, or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds

Some people have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to racial and ethnic factors. These include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans.