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Diabetes: Misconceptions and Symptoms

Andy CashLast month, my family and I celebrated a bittersweet milestone. My wife and participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) One Walk with our two sons. Both my children have Type 1 diabetes and this year marked the 10th anniversary of our eldest son’s diagnosis. In honor of that, my family committed to our largest fundraising goal yet: $50,000. We were blown away by the generosity of our community and raised over $55,000, the leading family team in Georgia.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. There are around 3 million Americans living with Type 1 diabetes (T1D.) Every year, 15,000 children and 15,000 adults are diagnosed with T1D. That’s about 80 people a day who learn that their lives will never be the same.

T1D is not a death sentence, but it is chronic disease that is very difficult to manage. Diabetics are constantly testing blood sugars, calculating carbohydrates, administering insulin through shots or a pump and literally weighing every activity they participate in to keep themselves alive. How much insulin you need varies day by day and is affected by numerous things, including what you eat and drink, exercise, stress, anxiety and hormones, among other factors.

Our eldest son, Gavin, is now a teenager with T1D. That brings a host of new management challenges. Teens are growing, their hormones are changing and they face new stresses. All of those things complicate and affect blood sugar. Amidst the challenges, though, my sons are resilient, amazing individuals and I could not be prouder of them.

Because there are so many misconceptions about diabetes, here are a few I’d like to address:

  • Type 1 diabetics can’t play sports. Exercise is especially important for diabetics – it helps them keep their blood sugar under control. Type 1 diabetics have even won Olympic medals. Famous T1D athletes include Jay Cutler, the quarterback of the Chicago Bears, Adam Morrison and Missy Foy (an Olympic Ultra Marathoner.)

  • Type 1 diabetics can’t ever eat sweets. Diabetics can eat what they like, so long as they take the appropriate amount of insulin. When a diabetic has a low blood sugar, they need glucose, such as a sugary snack or drink, to raise their blood sugar back to a safe level.

  • Type 1 diabetics, through strict attention to diet and exercise, can easily control their blood sugar. I wish it were this simple, but unfortunately a wide variety of factors influence blood sugar and this can change from day to day. No diabetic will have perfect control over their blood sugar at all times.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Children with no family history of diabetes can get T1D. (We’re still not sure what causes T1D.) Undiagnosed, diabetes is an incredibly dangerous health condition. Know the signs and contact a doctor immediately if you notice them!

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Extreme thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Drowsiness or lethargy

You can learn more at the JDRF website. Please visit today!

-Andy Cash

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