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World Diabetes Day: Tackling A Growing Global Health Threat

By Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger
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Logo: International Diabetes Federation

The need for diabetes prevention, education and treatment is so strong that 200 diabetes associations in more than 160 countries have come together to advocate for patients. This effort has resulted in each November 14 being designated as “World Diabetes Day.”

The numbers are staggering.

• More than 285 million people worldwide have diabetes, including 24 million Americans.
• Of the 24 million, one fourth don’t even know they have diabetes.

• Another 57 million Americans have pre-diabetes.

In the U.S., the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) is celebrating World Diabetes Day 2010 by raising awareness about the importance of preventing Type 2 diabetes by focusing on family health history and gestational diabetes as important risk factors for developing diabetes. NDEP works with more than 200 federal, state and local partners and offers materials and resources to the general public, people diagnosed with diabetes, and health care and business professionals. This information can be found at www.YourDiabetesInfo.org

Left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputation. For the estimated 57 million Americans with pre-diabetes, their condition places them at increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Type 1 diabetes (once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes) usually begins in children and young adults. This is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy.

Type 2 diabetes (once known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes) is the most common diabetes. The patient’s body is resistant to the effects of insulin or doesn't produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level.

Many people with Type 2 diabetes have one or more family members with the disease, such as a mother, father, brother or sister. The NDEP encourages families to talk about their family's history of diabetes. Knowing your family's health history is important because it gives you and your health care team information about your risk for Type 2 diabetes.

The Surgeon General's Family Health History Initiative web-based tool, My Family Health Portrait (https://familyhistory.hhs.gov), makes it easier for families to assemble and share their health history, and the NDEP offers some questions to help families talk about family health history and diabetes:

• Does anyone in the family have Type 2 diabetes?
• Has anyone in the family been told he or she might get diabetes?
• Has anyone in the family been told he or she needs to lower their weight or increase their physical activity to prevent Type 2 diabetes?
• Did your mother get diabetes when she was pregnant? This is known as gestational diabetes.

If the answer to any of the sample questions is yes, it's important to share your family health history with a doctor to learn if you're at risk and visit www.YourDiabetesInfo.org for information about preventing or delaying Type 2 diabetes and its complications.

The good news is that people with a family history of Type 2 or gestational diabetes can take steps now to prevent or delay the onset of the disease. Losing a small amount of weight — 5 to 7 percent (10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person) — can help delay or prevent the disease. And the whole family can benefit by making healthy food choices and being more active.

World Diabetes Day: http://www.worlddiabetesday.org/

National Diabetes Education Program: http://ndep.nih.gov/

My Family Health History: https://familyhistory.hhs.gov

EmpowHER: Type 1 Diabetes:

EmpowHER: Type 2 Diabetes:

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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