National Diabetes Awareness Month

Diabetes is a reality for many here in the United States. At least 23.6 million children and adults have this serious disease. It is estimated that nearly one quarter are unaware they have it. This is so problematic since, when caught early, diabetes can be managed through diet and exercise control.

There are two main types of diabetes.

The first form, called Type 1, is a result of the body's failure to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows body cells to accept glucose which is needed as fuel. Although this type is rarer, it is more often diagnosed in children, and can therefore have life-long repercussions.

Here complications can range from improper management of sugar within the body to heart disease, blindness, and kidney and nerve damage.

Type 2 diabetes is more common by far and typically diagnosed in adults. For unknown reasons, the body stops using insulin as it should. As glucose builds up in the body, cells go hungry. The glucose built up in blood can also eventually damage eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart. Ultimately complications can be the same as with Type 1.

Gestational diabetes is another form, which as described in its name, only affects pregnant women. For some, the hormones released as a baby develops interrupt how insulin is used in the mother's body. As a result the mother's body may need to produce three times as much insulin to remain effective.

Treatment is required and must be specialized for women carrying babies, although ultimately this type often ends as soon as a woman gives birth. That said, in many cases a woman who is diagnosed with gestational diabetes is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes some time later in life.

Pre-diabetes is the term used to refer to glucose levels which are higher than normal, and these levels need to be brought into control to avoid developing full diabetes. It is estimated that over 57 million people in the United States have pre-diabetes, which has long-term ramifications to the heart and circulatory system just as full diabetes does.

More Research Is Needed

As you can see, diabetes is a huge concern nation-wide. It affects many, and can have far-reaching results that can ultimately be fatal. That said, an earlier diagnosis allows treatments to be used for management, addressing and preventing complications and extending lives. New information and medications arise through constant research.

The first breakthrough came in 1921 when Canadian surgeon Dr. Frederick G. Banting and his assistant began researching the pancreatic extract we now know as insulin. Early tests were conducted on dogs and the researchers themselves before injections were given to a young man in a Toronto hospital. The boy, Leonard Thompson, defied odds – his treatments began at the age of fourteen, and he showed glucose level improvement that allowed him to live another thirteen years.

National Diabetes Awareness month helps increase awareness through many events, ensuring research continues and treatments are found. The American Diabetes Association helps ensure on-going peer-reviewed projects and studies, and research grants are often a necessary part of this important research. DNA and genetic details are studied, and new drugs are tested and refined for public use.

Type 1 diabetes diagnosed in children offers its own special levels of required research. Children are not just little adults, and their bodies must be carefully considered for diabetes treatments that, while effective and safe for adults, may be harsher on little bodies. Therefore a great deal of diabetes research is required especially for children.

Raising Awareness

One way awareness is raised is through World Diabetes Day, which is November 16th. Here the impact of diabetes is recognized throughout the world by monuments that are lit up in blue. The surprising and beautiful blue-lit monuments remind viewers of the impact of diabetes. Online galleries exist to show photos of displays in 2007, and 2008 pictures will be welcome this year.

That said, there are some less traditional fundraising methods used for diabetes research as well. For example, some locations run Kiss A Pig contests, to help recognize the role of pigs in diabetes related research.

Donations are offered by businesses, and the lucky CEO of the company with the most donations is invited to kiss a pig publicly. This event is held in many cities around the country each year and draws a lot of excitement and mirth. What a fun and silly way to help benefit those touched by diabetes!

Bikers Against Diabetes (BAD) holds special motorcycle rides to raise awareness and funds for diabetes research. Participants can ride or sponsor, and events are typically held from May through October in various cities.

After the ride, events are held within the community to spread cheer and continue raising diabetes awareness. Fun and excitement are offered while funds are raised for research. Why not consider hooking up with BAD to start your own bike ride in your town?

Many organizations offer walks, rides, and other methods to bring the community together. Although a bake sale may not seem appropriate, why not consider holding a diabetes friendly cookbook fundraiser?

There are certainly some low-sugar options out there to help remind people that diabetes control is possible and a diet can be so very helpful in preventing full blown diabetes. Help remind people that diabetes is manageable and needn't mean avoiding cookies!

Children's diabetes camps offer excellent ways for kids with Type 1 diabetes to come together, learn, and share stories with other kids who know what it's like. Here specially trained counselors know how to manage nutrition, exercise, and insulin injection. They are familiar with medications often used by kids with Type 1 diabetes, and ensure safety is paramount while kids are having fun.

Parents might worry about sugary S'Mores and high blood sugar attacks at normal camps, where staff just aren't trained to recognize the symptoms. However, diabetes camps provide all the same fun experiences with staff who are highly skilled and willing to give injections and administer medications.

Should you wish to learn more about diabetes and related fundraisers, do feel free to check out the American Diabetes Association. Their website discusses marathons, community campaigns, and kiss-a-pig contests along with reporting on local fundraising and awareness events in your area.

Further, they offer a wealth of information and direct ways to help by donating or volunteering.

Check their site today if you are interested in offering diabetes related fundraisers in your community!

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