Diabetes awareness draws attention to growing issue


The Appalachian Online

Chamian Cruz

Diabetes Awareness Month is celebrated every November to create awareness for the disease, which impacts the lives of many people, including Appalachian State University students.
The exact number of students with diabetes at Appalachian is unknown, said Janna Lyons, adjunct instructor and nutrition specialist for Appalachian’s wellness center. However, in 2013 it was reported through the National College Health Assessment that 1.1 percent of students who took the survey were diagnosed or treated by a professional for some type of diabetes, according to acha-ncha.org.

The American Diabetes Association also estimates that nearly 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, while another 86 million are at risk for Type 2.
Lyons said there are two types of diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2. These are most often diagnosed in Hispanic/Latino Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and Alaska natives.

The development of Type 1 diabetes is usually sudden and dramatic such as with Kayla Sloan, a freshman political science major, who was diagnosed last November at the age of 17.
Symptoms for Type 2 diabetes can often be mild or absent, making this type hard to detect.

“The month before I was diagnosed, I was thirsty all the time and I couldn’t sleep because I kept having to drink water and use the bathroom all the time, my fingers were tingly all the time, I passed out a couple of times and I had really weird symptoms,” said Sloan, “It was all because I had diabetes.”

Although the primary risk factor for Type 1 diabetes is family history, Type 2 can also be passed on, but most often affects people who have high blood pressure, are overweight or obese, and who live a sedentary lifestyle, Lyons said.

“Type 2 diabetes is [becoming] more prevalent because more and more Americans are overweight or obese and have poor diets that contribute to weight gain and high blood pressure,” Lyons said. “Also, Americans are more sedentary than in years past.”

The disease is also expensive to treat. The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. is $245 billion, including direct medical costs and reduced productivity.

Sloan said she spends about $300 a month on the two types of insulin injections that she has to take every day, one with every meal and once every night.

“A lot of people don’t know what Type 1 [diabetes] is because they just associate diabetes with eating unhealthy and getting fat and you get diabetes, which isn’t true,” Sloan said. “I think that it’s important for people to know that it can happen to anyone, at any time. It may happen to you or someone in your family, so it’s important to know what it is.”

To maintain and control her diabetes, Sloan has had to make many lifestyle changes.

The hardest part about diabetes is the inconvenience, Sloan said. She has to check her blood sugar every three to four hours, be mindful of her food choices, keep count of carbs, read labels, exercise and carry her medicine everywhere she goes. If she doesn’t have the medicine, she risks going into a coma at any moment, she said.

“For both types, being mindful of what you eat and how a given food affects your blood glucose level is important,” Lyons said. “Changing unhealthy lifestyle or dietary habits now can prevent many chronic diseases from developing later in life.”

Story: Chamian Cruz, Intern News Reporter