For discussion

November 2021

Shining Light on Diabetes

Dinema Mate is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Social Research and an Introduction to Public Speaking Instructor in the Communication Department at North Dakota State University. Dinema is studying towards an MA in Communication and a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health at North Dakota State University. Dinema also serves as the Treasurer to the North Dakota State University's Public Health Association. Dinema's research interests lie in health risk behaviors, motivation and affect specifically in COVID-19, risk perception and vaccine hesitancy, adverse childhood experiences (ACES), HIV prevention in South Saharan Africa, and behavioral analysis. Dinema was born and raised in Mozambique, and moved to the USA in 2019 for higher education purposes. Prior to that she served as a U.S. Government Foreign Service National (FSN) in her home country.

In the spirit of National Diabetes Awareness Month, and due to the association of diabetes with the severity of the COVID-19 disease, Dinema brings diabetes in the spotlight and discusses diabetes types, prevention, and management.

This month’s turning of the calendar comes with an important and timely message, diabetes awareness. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, giving us the opportunity to dedicate a whole month to the discussion of diabetes. As there is no cure for diabetes, the disease continues to impact more and more people of all ages (Mayo Clinic, 2021). In the United States, about every 1 in 10 people suffer from diabetes, which equates to more than 34 million people overall (CDC, 2021).

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic illness characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose, accompanied by disturbed metabolism of fats and proteins. Blood glucose rises because it cannot be metabolized in the cells, due to lack of insulin production by the pancreas or the inability of the cells to effectively use the insulin that is being produced,” (Roglic, 2016). In layman’s terms, diabetes is when the body loses the ability to correctly process sugars (glucose) due to lack of insulin (a hormone that the body needs to get sugars from the bloodstream into the cells of the body). There are three types of diabetes that are most prevalent in the world today: Type I, Type II and Gestational Diabetes.

Type I Diabetes

Type I diabetes occurs when a person’s body does not have the ability to produce insulin. Type I diabetes is usually diagnosed in children, adolescents, and young adults; however, it can occur at any age, and impact any individual regardless of gender, race, or socio-economic status. The risk factors for Type I diabetes are still unknown; however, a mixture of genetic and environmental factors have been identified as causes for the chronic condition (Roglic, 2016). Overall, Type I diabetes accounts for approximately 5-10 percent of people who have diabetes, which makes it less common than Type II diabetes (CDC, 2021).

Type II Diabetes

Type II diabetes occurs when the cells in a person’s body do not use insulin normally, resulting in an increase of sugar circulating in the bloodstream (CDC, 2021). Even though it usually develops in people over age 45, there is a growing trend of children, teenagers and young adults being diagnosed with Type II diabetes (CDC, 2021). The most recent data shows that in North Dakota 10 percent of adults (age 18 and older) have diagnosed diabetes (ND Compass, 2021). The prevalence of diabetes is higher for minority racial and ethnic populations, for low-income households, and adults with lower educational attainment (ND Compass, 2021).

Type II diabetes is associated with poor eating habits and lack of exercise, therefore, obesity is recognized as an indicator for the disease. North Dakota’s obesity rate for adults (age 18 and older) was 33 percent in 2020 and has trended above the national average since 2011 (ND Compass, 2021). Minority populations have higher obesity rates and therefore, are at higher risk of developing Type II diabetes. In North Dakota, 53 percent of American Indian are obese, followed by 35 percent of Hispanics (ND Compass, 2021).

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy to women who don’t have diabetes. While pregnant, a woman’s body goes through many changes (e.g., weight, hormones) and these changes can result in the body’s cells using insulin less effectively (insulin resistant). In the United States, between 2 percent and 10 percent of pregnant women are affected by gestational diabetes each year (CDC, 2021). Gestational diabetes can cause pregnancy and birth complications, increase the risk of maternal Type II diabetes after pregnancy and infant obesity (American Diabetes Association [ADA], 2021).

Prevention and Management

Diabetes is a serious disease and can lead to numerous complications and if left untreated it can lead to death. Symptoms of diabetes include, frequent urination, excessive thirstiness, excessive hunger, extreme fatigue, blurry vision, slow healing cuts and bruises, unexplained weight change, tingling pain, or numbness in hands and/or feet, (ADA, 2021). The good news is that Type II diabetes can be prevented and all types of diabetes can be managed through a combination of dietary and physical health measures, and medication (if necessary), (ADA, 2021). The American Diabetes Association recommends lifestyle changes for diabetes management, an increase in physical exercises, drinking lots of water, losing a modest amount of weight and/or adjusting one’s diet and provides useful tools like the Diabetes Plate Method.  Please note that the implementation of any lifestyle changes has to be discussed with your healthcare provider.

Diabetes is one of the oldest documented pathologies dating back to 1550 BC, (Diabetes, 2019). Over the years diabetes has received varying amounts of attention. However, current situations related to the COVID pandemic have added another layer of severity to an already serious condition, since patients with diabetes hospitalized for COVID-19 are at a higher risk of severe outcomes (Barrett et al, 2021). It is time to pay close attention to ourselves, be aware of our own risks and vulnerabilities, and take action. Early detection and treatment of diabetes highly decreases the risk of developing complications.

If you feel you may be at risk of developing diabetes try taking the American Diabetes Association 60 Second Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test. For any questions or further recommendations, please consult your healthcare provider.



American Diabetes Association. (2021). Diabetes. Retrieved from

Barrett, C. E., Park, J., Kompaniyets, L., Baggs, J., Cheng, Y. J., Zhang, P., ... & Pavkov, M. E. (2021). Intensive Care Unit Admission, Mechanical Ventilation, and Mortality Among Patients With Type 1 Diabetes Hospitalized for COVID-19 in the US. Diabetes Care.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Diabetes. Retrieved from , on November 4, 2021.

Diabetes. (2019). Diabetes History. Retrieved from , on October 31, 2021.

Mayo Clinic. (2021). Type 2 Diabetes. Retrieved from , on November 3, 2021.

ND Compass (2021). North Dakota Compass ( Health/Diabetes and Health/Obesity. Retrieved from and , on November 1, 2021.

Roglic, G. (2016). WHO Global report on diabetes: A summary. International Journal of Noncommunicable Diseases, 1(1), 3.

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North Dakota Compass

Center for Social Research
North Dakota State University

Compass created by:
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