November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and what better way to celebrate than by getting educated? Since I don’t have diabetes I wanted to consult someone with a bit more experience to write this blog. Thankfully my mom, Brenda Solarz-Johnson, is well-educated on the subject.

Brenda Solarz-Johnson has been a Registered Nurse since 1992, became a Certified Diabetes Educator in 1997, and works at an outpatient Pediatric Endocrinology office helping families learn and incorporate diabetes management skills.

What is Diabetes? 

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system destroys the cells that make insulin. Type 1 diabetes is unable to make insulin and requires insulin at diagnosis. Insulin is necessary to move glucose from our blood stream into our body’s cells.

Glucose comes from the carbohydrate foods we eat. Once the glucose moves into our cells, we can use that glucose for energy to grow or energy to do all the activities we love to do!  If there is not enough insulin, the glucose stays in our bloodstream where it can do damage to our body and the body is unable to use that glucose for energy.

Type 2

Type 2 diabetes is a disorder in which the body has difficulty producing enough insulin and the body may also be resistant to insulin. Type 2 diabetes can be treated with meal planning and oral medications (which help the body make or use insulin better) but may eventually require insulin.

How do I know if I have or should be screened for Diabetes?

Common symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include:

  • increased thirst
  • frequent urination
  • weight loss
  • fatigue

Type 2 diabetes often has a gradual onset in which symptoms may not be noticed. There are online risk assessment tools to help you determine if you are at greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes even if you do not have any symptoms you are aware of.

Some of the risk factors include but are not limited to:

  • being over the age of 45
  • having a history of gestational diabetes
  • having high blood pressure
  • being overweight
  • having a family history of diabetes

Tips to care for yourself if you have diabetes:

First take a deep breath. Diabetes is a marathon not a sprint.

  • Reach out to WSU Health and Wellness Services for information about diabetes, managing it, coping with symptoms and dietary education. Call 507-457-5160 or visit the WSU Health and Wellness Services website.
  • Eat healthy portion sizes including grains, vegetables, fruits, protein and dairy.
  • Find a health care team that you are comfortable being honest with so they can help you find a management plan that works best for each season of your life. WSU has experienced physicians and counselors to help you cope with symptoms and providing further information.
  • Be mindful of taking care of yourself (checking your glucose regularly, taking diabetes medication as prescribed, etc.) but don’t lose yourself in the process.
  • Find an activity you enjoy and participate in them regularly.

If you find that you are spending more time thinking about diabetes than you spend being who you are (friend, sister/brother, mom/dad, dancer, animal enthusiast, gardener…) or if you find that you are feeling down, reach out to your health team. Consider each day as an opportunity to start fresh and work towards making small adjustments that are achievable towards making yourself the best “you”!

There are resources on campus to help cope with and manage diabetes symptoms. To access free, confidential counseling services call 507-457-5330 or visit the website.To access general wellness services, call 507-457-5160 or visit the WSU Health and Wellness Services website.

Helpful apps

Some apps that might be helpful with looking up food details include MyFitnessPal, CalorieKing & FatSecret. There are definitely more out there to check out that might fit your needs better and you might like even more!