National Diabetes Month-Raise Awareness Reduce Risk

Each November, National Diabetes Month shines a spotlight on diabetes. By itself, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. But it's also a major risk factor for heart disease, which is the number killer in United States. With these startling facts, you might think there's nothing you can do to prevent diabetes. Think again. The most common form of diabetes can be prevented.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which your body either cannot produce or properly use insulin. Diabetes is on the rise in the United States. In the last 30 years, the number of people with diabetes has tripled.1 Right now in the United States over 19 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, with another 7 million undiagnosed.2 Plus, one in three American adults has prediabetes, and most do not even know they have it.2

There are two main types of diabetes,  plus gestational diabetes (occurs in pregnancy) and prediabetes. Here's a breakdown of the two main types:

  • Type 1 Diabetes: A type of diabetes in which the body is unable to produce all the insulin (a hormone) that it needs. Of those people with diabetes, 5-10% have Type 1 diabetes. 
  • Type 2 Diabetes: A type of diabetes in which the body is unable to properly use insulin. Most people with diabetes have Type 2. A major reason for this is unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise.

Diabetes & Heart Disease

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including blindness, kidney failure, and amputations of the foot, toe or leg. It is also one of the major risk factors for developing heart disease. Here are some troubling facts from the American Heart Association:

  • Heart diseases and stroke are the No. 1 causes of death and disability among people with Type 2 diabetes. At least 65% of people with diabetes die from some form of heart disease or stroke.3
  • Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes.3
  • The American Heart Association considers diabetes to be one of the seven major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease.3

Diabetes Risk Factors & Prevention

There are a number of risk factors that increase a person's risk for developing prediabetes and, ultimately, type 2 diabetes. Some of these characteristics are beyond a person's control, such as:

  • Family history. Check your family tree. If you have a blood relative with diabetes, your risk for developing it is significantly increased.
  • Race or ethnic background. African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latino/Hispanic-Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders have a greater likelihood of developing diabetes.
  • Age. Your risk increases with age. Generally, type 2 diabetes occurs in middle-aged adults after age 45. However, more and more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes.  Your risk increases if you developed diabetes during pregnancy or delivered a baby over 9 lbs.

While those risks for diabetes are beyond your control, there are also a number of modifiable risk factors. By making healthy lifestyle changes in these areas, you can reduce your risk for developing diabetes.

  • Overweight/obesity. If you are 20% or more over your optimal body weight, you have a higher risk of developing diabetes. Losing 5-7% of your body weight can cut your risk of developing prediabetes in half, and your risk decreases even more as you lose more weight.
  • Physical inactivity. By achieving 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 90 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity or a combination of the two, you can improve your health and minimize risks for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension). In addition to causing damage to the cardiovascular system, untreated high blood pressure has been linked to the development of diabetes.
  • Abnormal cholesterol (lipid) levels. Low HDL "bad" cholesterol" and/or high triglycerides can increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes.  A healthy eating plan, sufficient aerobic physical activity, and a healthy weight can help improve abnormal lipids.  Sometimes medications are necessary.

World Diabetes Day: November 14

On World Diabetes Day (WDD), join the campaign in raising awareness of diabetes and how to prevent it. Visit the International Diabetes Foundation website for ideas on how to mark the occasion. Go to now

Source content for this article was provided by our partners at the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn more at and at

What's Your Risk?

Assess your risk now

Use our assessment tool to find out if you're at risk for developing heart disease.

Assess your risk now

Who's at Risk?

Know the facts

Certain populations are at a greater risk for heart disease.

Know the facts

Join Our Network

Join our network now

Stay informed! Sign up to receive occasional email updates with news from Close the Gap

Join our network now