Diabetes continues to grow so it’s important for us to speak up about this very prevalent disease, especially in women. Why do you need to know about Diabetes? According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 13 million women in the United States have diabetes, that’s about one in 10 women over age 20. If you are an African American, Asian American or American Indian, you are at higher risk for developing this disease. Unfortunately, about one-third of women with diabetes do not know they have the disease.  So it is very important that every woman have her blood glucose tested, especially those that have a family history of diabetes. To bring awareness to diabetes this month, we rounded up 5 things we felt that all women should know about Diabetes.

1. What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease of the pancreas. The pancreas is located behind the stomach, and it’s the organ responsible for producing the hormone insulin. After food is eaten, it is broken down into glucose, the simple sugar that is the main source of energy for the body’s cells. Insulin helps glucose enter the cells where it is converted to energy. In diabetes, the pancreas either cannot produce enough insulin, cannot use insulin correctly or both. When insulin does not function properly, glucose cannot enter the cells. As a result, glucose levels in the blood increase and the cells lack the energy they need to function.

These are the main forms of diabetes:

Type 1: also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes.
Type 2: also known as adult-onset diabetes.

Gestational diabetes: only occurs during pregnancy. This form of diabetes may be related to the hormonal changes of pregnancy that make the body less able to use insulin.

2. What are the signs and symptoms of Diabetes?

In Type 1 diabetes, symptoms are usually more severe and may develop suddenly. In Type 2 diabetes, you may not have signs or symptoms at first but they can develop slowly over time. Gestational diabetes often has no symptoms, or they may be mild, such as being thirstier than normal or having to urinate more often.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of diabetes:

Blurry vision


Extreme thirst

Feeling hungrier than usual

Urinating more than usual

Dry, itchy skin

3. What can I do to prevent diabetes?

Research is still evolving in the area of type 1 diabetes and prevention. In terms of type 2 diabetes, many studies have proven that you can prevent type 2 diabetes through healthful eating habits, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. By doing this, it improves the way your body uses insulin and glucose. It is also very important to be on top of your yearly physicals and doctor appointments.

Tips for healthy eating: Choose vegetables, whole grains (such as whole wheat or rye bread, whole grain cereal, or brown rice), beans, and fruit. Read food labels to help you choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. Limit processed foods and sugary foods and drinks.

Tips for getting active:  First, aim for 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week. Increase your physical activity by walking daily around your neighborhood,  taking the stairs more often, joining a gym, or dancing to your favorite jams! Get more physical activity tips here.

4. How can I manage diabetes if I already have it?

Keeping your blood sugar levels within the range recommended by your doctor can be challenging. That’s because many things such as medications, stress, illness, diet and exercise can make your blood sugar levels change, sometimes unexpectedly. Healthy eating is important with or without diabetes. But if you have diabetes, you need to know how foods affect your blood sugar levels. It’s not only the type of food you eat but also how much you eat and the combinations of food types you eat. Physical activity is another important part of your diabetes management plan. When you exercise, your muscles use sugar (glucose) for energy. Regular physical activity also helps your body use insulin more efficiently. Schedule an appointment with your doctor and registered dietitian for an individualized plan to help you manage your condition.

5. Is it safe to get pregnant with diabetes?

Absolutely! If you have type 1 or type 2, you can definitely have a healthy pregnancy. If you have diabetes, be sure to talk to your doctor. Your doctor can talk to you about steps to take to keep your baby healthy during pregnancy. During pregnancy it may be helpful to see a registered dietitian. He or she will monitor and evaluate blood glucose levels, weight change, food intake, physical activity and pharmacological therapy and provide you with appropriate recommendations to help you get through your pregnancy, in good health.

When you are aware of what diabetes is all about, you can take steps to lower your risks of developing this disease or take steps to manage your condition and live a longer, healthier life. Visit the American Diabetes Association for more on diabetes.