You may or may not already be aware, but November marks a crucial time in our annual calendars throughout the United States: National Diabetes Awareness Month.

National Diabetes Awareness Month (NDAM) is an opportunity to raise awareness, increase education, and promote health campaigns related to this prevalent condition throughout our communities.

It’s an invitation to learn more about yourself and others and how diabetes can impact our health and lives in different ways.

What is National Diabetes Awareness Month?

Like other similar health awareness months and campaigns, NDAM is dedicated to raising community awareness for what diabetes is, who it might impact, the signs of diabetes, and how to get help.

The month of November coincides with World Diabetes Day on the 14th of November. This date is notable within the diabetes community as it commemorates the day insulin was co-discovered by Dr. Frederick Banting, Dr. Charles H Best, and Dr. JJR Macleod at the University of Toronto in 1921.

Why Is National Diabetes Awareness Month Important?

Data released by the America Diabetes Association (ADA) states the number of Americans aged 65 and older with diabetes is high – 29.2% or 15.9 million. There are around 1.4 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes for the first time each year.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD):

“Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main energy source and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.”

For people with the condition, too much glucose in their blood can lead to severe health problems over time. Without diagnosis and management, diabetes can have dire consequences for sufferers, such as:

  • Kidney damage
  • Eyesight damage and potential blindness
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of strokes.

While there is no cure for diabetes, with early diagnosis and appropriate management, those with the condition can lead healthy, happy lives.

NDAM sees various events and activities taking place across different communities to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of diabetes so that individuals can seek help if they feel they might be at risk.

Some individuals have a higher risk of developing diabetes, and NDAM focuses on these groups to ensure they have the most up-to-date information available to get support.

According to the CDC, those most at risk include those who are:

  • Significantly overweight
  • Aged 45 years or older
  • Have a genetic exposure to diabetes (through a parent or grandparent)
  • Physically inactive
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes
  • African American, Hispanic, or Latino
  • American Indian
  • Alaska Native person

Diabetes: Understand the Different Types

Diabetes is a condition that comes in different types, and each type can affect people differently.

The three most common types of diabetes are:

  1. Type 1: Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed early in life, during childhood, and with young adults, but it can happen at any age. In this type of diabetes, your body doesn’t make insulin as your immune system attacks the cells that make it within your pancreas. People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin daily to support normal bodily functions.
  2. Type 2: Type 2 diabetes is the most commonly diagnosed type of diabetes and occurs most often later in life. Type 2 diabetes is primarily diagnosed in older adults but can occur at any age. With type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t know how to use the insulin you produce well enough to support vital functions. When diagnosed early, it is usually managed through diet and nutrition, and medications.
  3. Gestational: Some women who have never experienced diabetes before may develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancies. This type of diabetes usually only exists during pregnancy and settles down once the baby is born. In some instances, women who develop gestational diabetes may also be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later in life.

There are a few other types of diabetes, but these are less common, including monogenic diabetes (a form of inherited diabetes) and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes (another chronic health condition).

How Did National Diabetes Awareness Month Begin?

NDAM was first established in 1975, although it wasn’t fully acknowledged as an awareness month until the 1980s. In 1997, the month was formally trademarked by the American Diabetes Association and has been celebrated as a full month of awareness activities, initiatives, campaigns, and education.

High-profile associations like the CDC, ADA, NIDDKD, and WHO – to name a few – all launch campaigns as part of the month. Alongside health organizations, pharmaceutical companies also support the month and help to raise awareness of research and treatments.

National Diabetes Day Blue CircleWhat’s The Significance Of The Blue Circle?

The logo of a blue circle has become symbolic of a symbol of solidarity for diabetes across the world, thanks to the International Diabetes Federation.

Introduced in 2006, the logo was created to provide a unifying symbol that created a stronger sense of identity across resources, media, and content relating to diabetes.

The blue circle provides:

  • Support for existing efforts that aim to raise awareness and education about diabetes.
  • A strong brand identity for activities, events, and materials related to diabetes.
  • An unmistakable symbol of support for anyone affected by diabetes – whether diagnosed individuals or their family members and loved ones.

If you want to learn more about the blue circle and its history and design, check out this post from the International Diabetes Federation for more information.

What Is The Theme for 2022?

Each year, NDAM develops an overall theme to help guide and add value to the events and campaigns initiated throughout the month.

For 2022, the theme is Diabetes Management: It Takes a Team.

The theme aims to bring people together to let them know that managing and living with diabetes doesn’t have to be done alone. As well as medical support teams, there are support groups and social events that bring people together to share their stories and guidance and help one another in unique ways.

Supportive relationships are key across many areas of life, including reducing stress and coping with chronic illness.

How to Develop A Diabetes Management Team

For anyone recently diagnosed with diabetes or with a family member, loved one, or child recently diagnosed, it might feel confusing to build a management support team or network in the early days.

The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD) offer the following tips and steps to help:

  1. Care Starts With You: Building an effective support team takes a little bit of work, and you are at the center of that team. It’s your responsibility to learn as much as possible about your disease, reach out to support groups and health professionals, and ask questions of your medical providers to help you find suitable sources of support for you.
  2. Start Early: Management of diabetes shouldn’t be delayed, and the sooner you take positive steps to improve your overall health, the better it will be long-term for managing your condition. This includes developing a nutrition plan, a physical exercise plan, and a medical plan where needed.
  3. Take Control: You are in the control seat of managing your diabetes, and you will feel more empowered the more control you take. Keep a record of symptoms, signs, or anything you’re unsure of and discuss it with your medical team. Record your blood glucose results and monitor these crucial signs that give you an overview of your condition and health. Set reminders for when you need to eat, exercise or take medicines – especially in the early days when creating a new routine can be more challenging and easier to let slip by.
  4. Start Small: Developing a successful diabetes management plan and support network can take time, so start small. It’s better to create micro goals you can achieve and sustain consistently than to try and do everything all at once and struggle to maintain your new lifestyle or become stressed by too many changes. Remember to reach out to support groups and listen to the stories of others, as these can significantly help you to feel less alone and motivate you to keep working on creating the lifestyle that sees you lead a safe, healthy life.

Where to Find Out More

There are plenty of resources and websites available on and offline that you can tap into for further support and information. Your local health clinics and medical providers are a great starting point to discover what’s available near you.

Additional places to learn more include some of the organizations mentioned throughout this article, such as:

Throughout NDAM, there will be a range of online and in-person events and activities you can attend and be a part of. Check out the dedicated NDAM website to learn more and register.