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Diabetes Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

Just as we are all coming down from the Halloween candy high, November 1st started the beginning of Diabetes Awareness Month. Did you know that over 88 million American adults have prediabetes – that’s 1 in 3 adults! Of those 88 million, more than 8 in 10 don’t know they have it.

If you haven’t heard of prediabetes, it is a serious health condition that puts you at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Having prediabetes means your blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes can lead to serious health conditions including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.[1]

Did you know that 34.2 million Americans, just over 1 in 10, have diabetes and 20% of the 30 million U.S. adults who suffer from diabetes don’t even know they have it?[2]

This is especially concerning because diabetes is considered the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.[3]

This potentially devastating disease is affecting your co-workers, neighbors and family members across all ages and races.  

·       Learn more about supplemental insurance products that can help offset the costs associated with treating unexpected critical illnesses[4].

The good news is that diabetes is highly treatable, but it requires lifestyle changes along with medication.  And many of these lifestyle changes are not easy, but they’re well worth it!

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides a step by step program to help manage prediabetes. By making healthy lifestyle changes, it is possible to manage or even reverse the disease before it becomes type 2 diabetes[5].

1.       Move more

2.       Choose healthier foods and drinks most of the time

3.       Lose weight, track it, and keep it off

4.       Seek support from your doctor

5.       Stay up to date on vaccinations


Symptoms can be similar for all types; however, they’re most often identified in those suffering from type 1. People with type 2 often have symptoms so mild they go unnoticed and women with gestational diabetes rarely experience symptoms at all.[6] According the American Diabetes Association, common symptoms include:

·       Urinating often

·       Feeling very thirsty

·       Feeling very hungry - even though you are eating

·       Extreme fatigue

·       Blurry vision

·       Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal

·       Weight loss - even though you are eating more (type 1)

·       Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)

Relationship to heart disease

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases is taking advantage of diabetes awareness month to drive awareness around the connection between diabetes and heart disease. People with diabetes have a greater chance of having a heart attack or a stroke than those who don’t have the disease.  In fact, adults with diabetes are twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people who don’t have diabetes[7].

Keeping up with your medications and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the chance of developing heart disease. The more you know about the disease, the better armed you are to stay healthy and avoid complications, like cardiovascular disease. Here’s an in depth look at diabetes facts and treatments.

Type 1 diabetes

The facts. Previously called juvenile diabetes, type 1 is most often diagnosed in kids and younger adults. In total, it impacts 5-10% of those with diabetes[8]. This form of the disease triggers an autoimmune response to a virus. If a person also has a gene that causes the pancreas’ beta cells to resemble the cells of the virus, the immune system attacks those cells as well, leaving the body unable to produce insulin. If the body cannot produce insulin, a hormone needed to transport glucose from the blood to the cells for energy, diabetes results.

The treatment. While there’s currently no cure for type 1 diabetes, the condition can be controlled with proper management of glucose and insulin levels, as well as leading a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise and proper nutrition. Your healthcare provider can help you understand how certain foods affect your blood glucose levels and develop a healthy eating and movement plan that’s best for you. Support groups, online or in person, can be very helpful, too.

What’s new? Current treatment focuses on managing high glucose levels through multiple fingertip blood draws and injections daily. But new research is aimed at prevention. Ongoing research aims at identifying type 1 diabetes before symptoms present using early biomarkers[9]. Other scientists are working on the development of a “smart insulin patch” that senses early changes in glucose levels and responds by triggering insulin production to prevent them from getting too high[10].

Type 2 diabetes

The facts. In this most common form of the disease, the body experiences insulin resistance. While the pancreas may produce insulin as needed for many years, at some point, the body’s tissues become insulin resistant, and it can’t produce the amount the body needs. Certain populations, such as the elderly, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes[11].

The treatment. The severity of type 2 varies and can worsen over time. Some people are able to manage their blood glucose levels with diet and exercise, while others may require oral or injected medication. If you have type 2, you will need to check your blood sugar regularly and make regular appointments with your health care team[12].

What’s new? In patients with diabetes type 2, groups of amyloid proteins or deposits are found within the beta cells of the pancreas and are believed to encourage the breakdown of those cells[13]. New research is focused on learning how these amyloid deposits occur and lead to beta cell death with hopes results could lead to pharmaceutical development that prevents it from happening.

Gestational diabetes

The facts. About 7 percent of women develop gestational diabetes later in pregnancy, a temporary form of the disease where the mother develops high blood glucose levels, or hyperglycemia[14]. Doctors aren’t certain of the cause of the condition, but believe it may have something to do with hormones from the placenta blocking the effect of insulin, causing the body to need more to control blood glucose levels. If left untreated, gestational diabetes can hurt the baby by causing the baby to experience high blood glucose as well and trigger their pancreas to produce more insulin in order to control it. This can lead to larger babies with physical challenges during the birth process, such as damage to their shoulders. The extra insulin made by the baby might also mean they have low blood glucose levels at birth and are at higher risk for breathing problems. Additionally, babies born with excess insulin are at higher risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes[15].

The treatment. Women with gestational diabetes should work closely with their doctor and dietician to monitor glucose levels, follow a special diet and get regular exercise. Sometimes, insulin injections are also needed. Working together, the impact of gestational diabetes on the baby is minimized.

Looking ahead. It’s important to note that women who have had gestational diabetes in one pregnancy have a 2 in 3 chance of having it with a subsequent one[16]. There also seems to be a correlation between gestational diabetes and developing type 2 diabetes later in life[17]. The American Diabetes Association recommends maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, limiting fat to 30 percent of your daily intake and exercising regularly to help mitigate future risk.

Resources to help

Managing diabetes can be overwhelming, but you are not alone.  Talk to your doctor about resources he or she can offer, such as a wellness coach who can help you with diet, medications, and exercise.  The American Diabetes Association website is full of useful information including nutrition and fitness advice, news on research and information on how to get involved in advocacy.

 Check with your health insurance to see if it will help pay for a wellness coach to help manage your diabetes. Be sure to check your supplemental insurance policies.  Many may help cover emergency room visits, follow up visits, surgery and hospitalizations related to diabetes, and doctor visits, if the policy was purchased before diabetes developed.

Learn more about Combined Insurance’s  supplemental insurance  products and contact an agent today for an individualized quote.

The good news with diabetes is there are many effective lifestyle modifications and medications to help manage the disease.  Knowledge is power: diabetes awareness month invites us to take control of our lifestyle choices and to be savvy about using our health insurance and supplemental policies wisely.

Supplemental insurance products issued by Combined Insurance Company of America in all states, except New York. In New York insurance products issued by Combined Life Insurance Company of New York (Latham, NY). Combined Insurance Company of America is not licensed and does not solicit business in New York. The information provided by this document is only a brief description. See the actual policy for complete details of the policy plans, features, benefits, options, rates, definitions, limitations, and exclusions. Products vary by state and are subject to availability and qualifications.






[4] Diabetes does not qualify as a Critical Illness in supplemental Critical Illness policies isssed by Combined Insurance Company of America (Chicago, Il), or Combined Life Insurance Company of New York (Latham, New York). See policy language for details and a complete list of covered conditions. 


[6] Diabetes Symptoms.” American Diabetes Association, American Diabetes Association, 1 June 2015.







[13] “Study Uncovers Potential New Ways to Prevent Beta Cell Death in Type 2 Diabetes.” American Diabetes Association, American Diabetes Association, 10 Aug. 2015.