News | Published November 13, 2012 | Written by Susan Trainor, CRNP, Certified Diabetes Educator

Diabetes – It’s about us

Do you have diabetes, know someone who does or care for people with diabetes?

You probably answered 'yes' to at least one of the questions above. Nearly 26 million Americans now have diabetes; this translates to roughly 1 in 12 people - that's you or someone you know. Here's what that looks like:

  • As people age, they are more prone to diabetes. Among adults 65 years and older, 3 in 12 people have diabetes. Worse still, 25 percent of the people with diabetes don't even know it.
  • In addition, 3 in 12 people have 'pre-diabetes' - a condition in which a person's blood sugars are higher than normal but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Those with pre-diabetes have an increased risk of having diabetes within 10 years.
  • A staggering 4 in 12 children born in 2000 will also have diabetes in their lifetime.

Diabetes isn't just one disease; 5 percent of Americans who have diabetes have type 1 diabetes - an autoimmune disease in which the body's ability to make insulin is damaged by an abnormal immune response to cells that make insulin in the pancreas. The other 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes; this is associated with a family history of the disease, obesity and sedentary lifestyle.

Whether it's type 1 or type 2, diabetes has reached epidemic proportion, with a majority of the epidemic now type 2. While easy to understand the contagiousness of flu epidemics, it's sometimes harder to see that diabetes is a contagious disease too. Although not spread by droplet exposure or direct physical contact, type 2 diabetes is a socially contagious disease and there is something we can all do to help. It may be hard to see the dish of chocolates on the counter as a vector for disease (and that thinking may be a little too radical for some), but the way we are living today is making type 2 diabetes more contagious.

This is when diabetes stops being about numbers and starts being about us.

Tomorrow, November 14, is World Diabetes Day, and the entire month of November is American Diabetes Month®. Raising diabetes awareness is the first step in slowing the contagiousness of diabetes. In an effort to raise diabetes awareness, the International Diabetes Federation sponsors a campaign to light famous buildings, like the Empire State Building, in blue on World Diabetes Day. State College has joined in on the campaign; for the past several years (including this year), Mount Nittany Medical Center will be lit in blue. The Centre County Courthouse, Bryce Jordan Center, The Corner Room, Allen Street Grill, Autoport and Hoss's will also participate. If you'd like to light your own home in blue, you may purchase a blue light at Ace Hardware in State College and register your home on the Blue Light Map (directions are included with the purchase of a bulb).

In your own effort to raise diabetes awareness, think about something you might do this month that would help slow the social contagiousness of type 2 diabetes. Grab a co-worker and take a quick walk at break, or consider a veggie or fruit tray next time you bring something to a covered dish get-together.

For more information on managing your diabetes, visit or call Mount Nittany Health's diabetes team at 814.231.7095. To learn more about American Diabetes Month® and the American Diabetes Association, visit