Do You Recognize Diabetes, the Invisible Killer?

November 14th is World Diabetes Day and part of Diabetes Awareness Month. Why have a month dedicated to diabetes awareness? Because diabetes or pre-diabetes affects more than 100 million Americans and about 1 in 11 adults worldwide. That’s more than 500 million people worldwide and growing. The symptoms of diabetes are often so subtle that more than 46% of people with diabetes don’t know they have it! Take charge of your health. Be vigilant, know your risk factors, and have regular checkups. Know how to recognize diabetes, the invisible killer. 

Image is a blue circle around the words 14 November World Diabetes Day. A blue heart with a red blood drop is to the left of the words. Do You Recognize Diabetes, the Invisible Killer?

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy 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. (Definition from NIH.Gov health information.)

What Causes Diabetes?

There are different types of diabetes. Each has its own causes. 

Type 2 Diabetes is the most common. It affects nearly 90% of all who have the disease.Typically, it is caused by insulin resistance. The body’s cells don’t respond properly to the insulin that is in the body. We aren’t certain exactly why this happens but certain behaviors increase your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. (See Risk Factors below)

Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune reaction where the body attacks the insulin making cells of the pancreas.Having a family member with Type 1 slightly increases your risk of developing the disease. Scientists have linked some environmental factors to the disease and some viral infections. These things are under investigation but it needs more research.

Prediabetes is when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but are not yet high enough to be diabetic. With lifestyle and dietary changes you can delay and perhaps prevent becoming diabetic. 

Pre-gestational diabetes occurs when blood sugars are high during pregnancy. Often the woman’s blood sugars return to normal after pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean she won’t ever get diabetes.

Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar or certain foods. A diet with lots of high-carbohydrate, processed foods resulting in weight gain has been shown to increase your risk of getting diabetes but doesn’t cause it.

Who Can Get Diabetes?

Anyone can get diabetes. There is no exception for the fat, thin, young, old, race, or gender. People with many risk factors are more likely to get diabetes than people who have fewer or no risk factors. But there is no guarantee.

Most commonly, Type 2 occurs in adults. However, more and more children are diagnosed with Type 2 each year.  

Type 1 Diabetes, once known as Juvenile Diabetes was considered a disease of infants, children, and young people. We know now that Type 1 Diabetes can affect anyone of any age. 

Are You at Risk?

How do you know if you might develop diabetes? There are certain things, risk factors, associated with the disease. 

Risk factors associated with diabetes include:

What are the Symptoms?

Often, the symptoms of diabetes are subtle. You may not recognize the symptoms because they are so mild. Or you might misdiagnose yourself. Your doctor may miss the symptoms because of other health issues you may have. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors. Be vigilant and knowledgeable. Protect yourself and your loved ones. Know how to recognize diabetes, the invisible killer.

The symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes can be mild or absent and include:

  • Excessive thirst and dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Lack of energy, tiredness
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Recurrent infections in the skin
  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet.

People with type 2 diabetes may completely unaware they have diabetes for years. Those years of untreated diabetes greatly increase their risk of complications.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes often presents as

  • Abnormal thirst and dry mouth
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • Lack of energy, tiredness
  • Constant hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Bedwetting

These symptoms can be difficult to spot in small children. Be aware. If your child’s symptoms are persistent, see the doctor.

How is Diabetes Diagnosed?

The way to diagnose diabetes is to measure insulin and blood sugar in the blood.

Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. This blood test measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to the hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells). The results show your average blood sugar level for the past two or three months.

A normal A1C is below 5.7. If your A1C is between 5.7-6.4 it is prediabetes. A level higher than 6.5 percent on two separate tests means you have diabetes

Fasting Blood Sugar Test—Before they draw your blood for this test, you must have nothing to eat or drink overnight. Normal fasting blood sugars are 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) or less. A prediabetic has a fasting blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L). Above that, on two separate tests means you have diabetes.

Random Blood Sugar Test – a blood test taken regardless of when you last ate. If your blood sugar level is 200 or greater, it suggests that you have diabetes.

Oral glucose tolerance test. For this test, you fast overnight. The next morning, a tech or nurse will draw a fasting blood sugar level. Then you drink a sugary liquid. They take blood periodically for the next two hours and measure the blood sugar levels. High levels or levels that don’t go down at a normal rate may mean you have pregestational diabetes.

Your doctor may want to test your insulin levels to determine Insulin-resistance. If other hormonal issues may be a concern, additional blood tests may be ordered.

Need More Information?

Diabetes, the invisible killer, can kill before you know you have it. But diabetes doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Educate yourself. Go to reliable sites that will give you factual information. Yes, I recommend that you seek more than one. Find one that speaks in a way you understand.

There are many reputable sites. Three I recommend are Mayo Clinic, The American Diabetes Association or the International Diabetes Foundation.

Know your risk factors. Monitor your blood sugar. Eat a balanced diet and exercise.


Diabetes is a disease I know well from my previous career as a registered nurse. Unfortunately, I also have up-close and personal knowledge. Regular readers may remember that my niece has Type 1 Diabetes. My husband is an Insulin-dependent Type 2 Diabetic. I am a medication-controlled Type 2 Diabetic. Others in my family are exercise-and diet-controlled Diabetics. 

Not recognizing the disease, not managing the disease, and sometimes genetics can cause complications of diabetes. I’ll talk about treatment and some of the complications next week. 

In the meantime, live as healthy of a lifestyle as you can. Get regular checkups. Have your doctor monitor for diabetes. If you have risk factors, be proactive not reactive. Learn how to recognize diabetes, the invisible killer, before it causes irreparable harm to you or your loved ones. Do you know your blood sugar levels?

Your Gift Could Save a Life or Find a Cure

Finishing my Best Gifts posts, this charity is no surprise: The American Diabetes Association. Readers of this blog know that my niece and my husband are diabetics. Giving to the American Diabetes Association and their research partner, the American Diabetes Association Research Foundation are on my list. Your gift pays forward to the newly diagnosed, those struggling with the disease, and medical personnel who treat the disease. Your donations could save a life or help find the cure for diabetes.

Your Best Gift could save a life or cure diabetes. Here's why you should give to the American Diabetes Association.History

Founded in 1940 by twenty-six physicians, the Association was strictly for medical professionals. Their purpose was to address the increasing incidence of diabetes and the complications that arise from the disease. Membership was $2.00 per year.

The first annual meeting of the Association occurred on June 1, 1941. The keynote address was given by the co-discoverer of how to use insulin in treating diabetes, Charles Best. (English physiologist Sir Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer discovered insulin in 1910. In 1921 Doctors Best and Fredrick Banting discovered how to extract insulin and began testing how to use it.)

Continuing research developed new forms of monitoring and testing and treating diabetes.

The Association brought in local affiliate associations and began to publish periodicals. In 1949 they held the first camp for children with diabetes.

In 1970 they reorganized into a voluntary association, for both lay and professional members, led by a Board of Directors.

The history of learning to treat diabetes and the Association’s involvement is long and very detailed. If you wish to learn more check out their timeline

What They Do

They provide local education, awareness, and camps for children across the nation.

The Association has printed educational materials for lay people and for medical professionals. These education materials include information about the various forms of the disease, about treatment options, about diet and exercise, and about living with diabetes (what to do if you’re sick among other situations).

The Association has a large advocacy program. They advocate for research, for access to care for diabetics, and for diabetic education at the community, state, and national level. The Association also has a legal advocacy program to assist diabetics who face discrimination in the workplace.

How to Give

Monetary donations can be one time, monthly, in memory of someone or in honor of someone. 

If you have diabetes, you, your family, friends, and caregivers can become a member of the Association

Consider donating your car, truck, boat, or RV. 

You can take part in one of the fundraising events put on by the Association.

Buy products from one of the national sponsors of the American Diabetes Association: Performance Bicycle, Catherines, Amazon Smile, Hilton HHonors, Survey Monkey, and Primal Wear. Learn more here.

Ask your workplace to sponsor a donation drive or a matching funds drive. 

You can create your own fundraiser event. 

And you can shop from the American Diabetes Association online store. 

Or, you can spread the word about their good deeds.

What Will You Give?

It’s a time of year when your donations can help save a life or find a cure. There are many medical charities out there that are worthy of your gift. But gifts given to the American Diabetes Association have a special place in my heart. Do you donate to or volunteer for medical charities or causes in December? Which ones? Is there one you support all year long?

Will You Raise Your Hand?

I am proud to be an American. (Raise your hand if you’re proud, too). Americans are some of the most caring, most passionate, and most inventive people on the planet. However, we’ve also become a people obsessed with ‘doing.’ We brag about how busy we are as we pass one another and hurry off to the next activity. And in all the doing, some of us forget To take care of ourselves. Not taking care of ourselves means a rising number of us are becoming diabetic. Right now we are rushing into the bountiful feast season. Raise your hand if you want to celebrate the season and stop diabetes.

Raise your hand illustration of colorful hands raised


In the next few months, we’ll proudly fix meals that once fed the entire colony and all of their guests in 1621. Many of us will say grace, giving thanks for our bounty. Some won’t. We’ll watch parades, football games, and maybe a sappy holiday movie or two. A few of us will take an after-dinner walk. Most of us won’t. (*Raising my hand sheepishly*)

We won’t remember that the first feast came only after a tremendous amount of physical work. The early settlers suffered through a two-month journey on a ship most of us modern Americans wouldn’t step foot on. Those that survived the journey were challenged by winter weather, limited food, poor housing, and illness. Then they had to clear the land, build their homes, hunt for meat, and till the land to grow food. The survivors of that first harsh year had plenty of reasons to celebrate their first successful harvest.

Be Thankful

By comparison, most modern Americans have it very soft. But this post isn’t meant to be an “in the old days . . .” type of scolding. It’s meant as a reminder: Be thankful for the technology that makes our lives so much easier. Give thanks that our knowledge and technology has made it possible to have plenty of food. Be thankful that the advances in medicine have nearly eliminated some of the most deadly epidemics out there. (*Raising my hand, thankful for all of these*) But our bodies have not caught up evolutionarily with all of the technical changes

Some Are Forced to Change

My redheaded niece has just been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. It’s a very difficult time for her and her family: her sister and brother, her father (my brother), and her mother (my brother’s lovely wife).

We all understand that there are worse diagnoses she could have had. (*Raising my hand in gratitude*). But childhood is difficult enough without the added stress of a medical condition. No matter what that medical condition is, it adds stress. Parents try to grasp that their perfect child is no longer perfect. They feel threatened by the disease, by the foreign language they have to learn, and by all the procedures that accompany that particular diagnosis.

The child cannot understand what’s happening. Yesterday they could eat, play, do what they want. Today, everything has changed. And the child asks why. A question most parents, even medical personnel cannot answer.

Added to that is the stress, the knowledge, that diabetes is a very serious disease that affects your whole body. Undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetes can lead to kidney and heart disease, massive infections, blindness, and death. It’s HARD to manage diabetes around activities and illness and bountiful feasts. It is especially difficult because we Americans forgo moderation as if more is better somehow.

Be Moderate

Moderation doesn’t mean you never get to eat a treat. It means you are aware. You are aware of your body’s needs and of your psychological needs. A small treat once in a while is delightful and appropriate. But a sugary snack twice a day and a dessert every night, or a menu of nothing but fast foods — not so appropriate for what our bodies need.

I have type two diabetes, or adult onset, also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes. I don’t take care of myself nearly as well as I should. And for no good reason: I am tired, so I don’t exercise and eat a treat ‘because I deserve it.’ I am partying so I eat to celebrate. I had a hard day, I had a good day, etc. etc. I always have an excuse.

How Many Are Affected by Diabetes?

My niece’s diagnosis has made me stop and think. Because of her diagnosis, I visited the American Diabetes Association. I’d like to share the following statistics I found there:

Total: 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes.

Diagnosed: 18.8 million people

Undiagnosed: 7.0 million people

Prediabetes: 79 million people*

New Cases: 1.9 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in people aged 20 years and older in 2010.

Please remember, diabetes can do damage EVEN IF YOU DON”T KNOW YOU HAVE IT.

The American Diabetes Association has a presence on Facebook also. The Association has a campaign running right now. raise your hand.  Pledge to stop diabetes.

My niece and her family live miles away from me. I can’t help her the way I’d like to. I can’t make her diabetes go away. But there are things I can do.

Raise Your Hand

So I’m raising my hand. (*Waves to Savannah!*) I’m taking the pledge to stop diabetes. I pledge to be kinder to my body: to drink more water, eat in moderation, to test my blood sugar regularly and to exercise. These are not going to be easy for me to do. It is a lifestyle change. But I’m doing this for my niece, for my family, and for myself.

Oh, don’t worry. We’ll have a Thanksgiving Day feast, we’ll watch parades and I’ll probably watch a sappy movie. But I’ve made the pledge – I’ll eat in moderation (we’ll have plenty of leftovers!) and I will exercise and I will test my blood sugar regularly. You all will hold me accountable, won’t you?

Have a HAPPY (moderate) THANKSGIVING.

But won’t you also join me? Raise your hand and pledge to stop diabetes. Get tested for diabetes. Be more active. Eat right. And learn to love taking care of yourself and your loved ones.