Each year, November is designated as National Diabetes Month. This annual initiative is spearheaded by the American Diabetes Association in order to raise awareness about a disease affecting millions of individuals across the country, including some living in the Coastal Bend. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is a life-threatening disease that affects 29 million – or one out of every 11 – people living in the United States. In addition, 86 million individuals have pre-diabetes, a condition in which glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be considered diabetes. In our area, there are approximately 86,000 people living with diabetes or pre-diabetes. In addition, research has shown that if current health trends continue, one-third of all Americans could have diabetes by the year 2050. Given these staggering statistics, I would like to share some of the facts relating to diabetes in this week’s article in hopes that through increased awareness, we can work to reverse this trend and support a healthier community.

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Both types of diabetes can lead to health complications such as heart disease, blindness and kidney failure. A third type of diabetes, known as Gestational diabetes, can develop in a small percentage of pregnant women. When properly managed, women who develop gestational diabetes can have a healthy pregnancy, although it does potentially lead to an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in both the mother and child later in life.

Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, represents only 5% of all diabetes cases and is commonly diagnosed in children and young adults. Type 1, or insulin-dependent diabetes, occurs when the body does not produce insulin. While the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown, it is generally thought to be caused by a combination of genetics and an immune system disorder that affects insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes are generally required to monitor their blood sugar levels closely and take insulin daily to survive.

Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, develops over time and occurs when the body becomes insulin resistant, meaning it is unable to process insulin properly. While age, ethnicity and family history all play an important role in determining one’s risk level for Type 2 diabetes, research has shown that lifestyle choices such as tobacco use, diet and physical activity level can greatly impact whether a person will develop the disease.

While there is no currently cure for the disease, Type 2 diabetes can be manageable and, in some instances, is even preventable. According to the American Diabetes Association, Type 2 diabetes can be managed by taking certain steps to ensure blood sugar levels are kept within a healthy range. These steps include taking prescription medicines, following a healthy eating plan, reducing tobacco use and participating in regular physical activity. Likewise, individuals with pre-diabetes or who are at a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes can delay or even prevent the onset of the disease by making changes towards living a healthier lifestyle. According to the Department of Health Services, weight loss is one of the most important steps a person can take to reduce high glucose levels and prevent diabetes.

There are several local resources in addition to the available to help families impacted by diabetes or pre-diabetes. The South Texas chapter of the American Diabetes Association offers a number of outreach programs to help families and individuals impacted by diabetes. To learn more about the different resources available, please visit the American Diabetes Association.

Texas A&M – Corpus Christi’s Diabetes Education Program serves to help those diagnosed with diabetes to learn how to manage the disease and live a healthier lifestyle through its diabetes management classes. Accredited by the American Diabetes Association, these classes offer support and information on a variety of diabetes-related topics such preventing diabetes complications and family management plans. More information about this program can be found at Texas A&M – Corpus Christi’s Diabetes Education Program.

If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office.  As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office; 361-949-4603).

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part).  He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672.