Submitted by the Niagara County Department of Health
November is designated as National Diabetes Awareness Month, a time to remind our communities about a disease that can have serious consequences if not recognized.
The Niagara County Department of Health, along with the Niagara County Diabetes Coalition, is encouraging Niagara County residents to assess their risk for diabetes. The number of Americans who have diabetes is 25.8 million people or 8.3 percent of the population. Of these, 7 million do not know they have this serious disease. In Niagara County, more than 21,000 individuals have diabetes (10.3 percent of the population), and the numbers both nationally and locally are rising.
Diabetes is a disease in which glucose (blood sugar) levels are above normal. Glucose is a form of sugar created from digestion of food and is used by the body for energy with the help of a hormone called insulin. In people with diabetes, glucose cannot easily be used by the body, because of a problem with insulin.
There are several types of diabetes: Type I, Type II and gestational diabetes. The difference between the various types is based mostly on the specific problem occurring with insulin. Insulin is made and released by the pancreas, which is a small organ that is located behind the stomach. In some types of diabetes (Type I), the cells of the pancreas that make insulin are damaged, which leads to the inability to produce insulin. In other types of diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin; however other tissues in the body cannot use it (Type II). Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and can cause health complications in both mother and baby.
Individuals who have persistent high-normal glucose levels may be pre-diabetic. Higher levels of glucose in the blood even in this early phase could be silently damaging vital organs and affecting the nerves and vision of the affected individuals.
All forms of diabetes places an individual at risk for heart disease. Sixty-five percent of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. Simply speaking, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or suffer a stroke than people without diabetes. Diabetes also greatly increases the occurrence of kidney, eye and nerve diseases.
Some risk factors for preventing diabetes cannot be changed, such as family history and age. However, there are risk factors for developing diabetes that can be prevented. Maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and choosing a healthy diet based on the guidelines of the USDA's website atwww.choosemyplate.gov can help prevent and/or assist in the management of diabetes.
Since diabetes is a serious epidemic that threatens the health of our family, friends and neighbors, each hospital in Niagara County has specific diabetes education classes for those with diabetes to learn to manage diabetes and prevent serious health complications. Also, during the month of November, each hospital is sponsoring activities to raise the awareness of diabetes prevention and management through community activities.
More information regarding offerings through our Niagara County hospitals can be found on the Niagara County Department of Health website under "Health Education and Prevention" at http://www.niagaracounty.com/Health.