LiveSmart: Diabetes Awareness Month – Know the Risks, Plan for Better Health

[This piece was written by Lynn Sutton, RD, CDN, CDE, supervisor/program coordinator of the Diabetes Education Program at St. Peter’s Diabetes & Endocrine Care.]

November is Diabetes Awareness Month and, during this time of COVID-19, knowing your risks for diabetes and making a plan to address those risks is more critical than ever.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2020 national diabetes statistics report states that 34.2 million people in the United States have diabetes. Of those, 90 to 95 percent have type 2 diabetes and 89 percent of those are overweight (BMI between 25 and 29) or obese (BMI greater than 30).

Being a diabetes care and education specialist, I hear many concerns regarding the increased risk of getting the COVID-19 virus with related complications and the difficult recovery. The good news is your risk of contracting bacterial or viral infections and getting very sick from COVID-19 is likely to be lower if your diabetes is well-managed. Diabetes in good control promotes less complications and quicker recovery.

Why Are You at Greater Risk?
Diabetes with hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) activates inflammatory pathways leading to dysfunction and weakness of the immune system. In turn, this impedes the way our cells respond to disease. Inflammation diminishes the way natural antibodies fight infection.

Many individuals with diabetes have other health complications such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases and renal (kidney function) changes. These co-morbidities lead to increased stress, which increases blood glucose, chronic inflammation and decreases immune function.

Obesity is also linked to high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, pain, limited mobility and sleep apnea. Limited mobility and pain increases stress, blood glucose and inflammation. With sleep apnea, the resulting compromised lung function leads to abnormal respiratory ventilation, greater respiratory symptoms and the potential for respiratory failure.

Reduce Your Risk
To improve your management of diabetes, you should:

  • Keep all your medical health appointments.
  • Take all your medications as prescribed.
  • Work with your healthcare team to maintain a blood glucose level that is safest for you.
  • Improve your diet by increasing fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Avoid processed foods, fast foods, juices and sugar sweetened beverages.
  • Lose weight. A modest weight loss of 7 to 10 percent of your body weight will make a big difference. It lowers blood glucose, blood pressure and increases respiratory strength.
  • Increase activity; even walking ten minutes after meals will help with blood glucose management and increase respiratory strength.

It may seems like a lot but, by taking it one step at a time, you can make small, healthy changes that you can maintain for life. St. Peter’s Diabetes & Endocrine Care is here to help you on your journey to take control of your health.

At St. Peter’s Diabetes and Endocrine Care, our multi-disciplinary team of endocrinologists, advanced practitioners and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists are dedicated to helping individuals with diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic disorders improve their quality of life.

Our specialized services include complication screenings; prevention and treatment; medication management; foot care; onsite HbA1c testing; nutritional counseling; support groups; and individual and group education classes, including our free, virtual “Prevent T2” diabetes prevention program. For information, call 518-471-3636.

Join Our Next, Virtual “Prevent T2” Program

Begins Thursday, December 3

6 to 7 p.m.

To register online, visit

For questions, contact Katie Cameron at 518-447-3548 or email

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