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Diabetes: Everyone Has a Role in Prevention, Education and Support

Monday, November 23, 2015 | 12:01pm

November is National Diabetes Month

NASHVILLE – More than 29 million Americans, including more than 600,000 Tennessee adults, have diabetes. It is estimated one in every four people with diabetes does not even know he or she has the disease. The Tennessee Department of Health is reminding Tennesseans during National Diabetes Month that diabetes is a disease that can be treated, and with some lifestyle changes some individuals can even prevent or reverse the course of the disease.

Diabetes is a disease that leads to high levels of blood sugar, or glucose. It happens when the body does not make any or enough insulin, or does not use insulin well. If left undiagnosed or untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health problems including heart attack and stroke.

“People with diabetes can take steps to manage the disease and lower their chance of life-threatening complications, and those at risk for type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Obesity is a key risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and that’s a risk we can all work to reduce by adopting a healthful lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a healthy eating plan.”

“Research has shown just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day and changes to diet that increase vegetables and decrease calories and fat can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes for those who are at risk,” said TDH Family Health and Wellness Deputy Medical Director Morgan McDonald, MD. “Every Tennessean can think about how they can add 30 minutes of exercise to their everyday routine. We encourage people to make choices to bring home only healthy foods they and their children will eat through the week. These daily decisions make for a healthier lifetime.”

The National Diabetes Education Program offers an online tool “Am I at Risk” at This resource helps individuals evaluate their risk for diabetes and offers practical tips to prevent the disease. Formal Diabetes Prevention Programs are also available throughout the state.

For those already diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, the Tennessee Department of Health, in partnership with the University of Tennessee Extension, offers a free self-management workshop “Take Charge of Your Diabetes” for anyone living with diabetes or prediabetes. Family members, caregivers and friends are also welcome to attend the two-hour sessions. The six-week program provides skills necessary for patients to self-manage diabetes on a daily basis and to work effectively with their healthcare professionals. To learn more about this workshop, contact your local county health department or visit the U.T. Extension website

The National Diabetes Education Program offers many other resources to support people with diabetes in the community. TDH is one of more than 200 partner organizations in the NDEP, which is jointly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NDEP resources include:

  • 4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life: This booklet provides four steps to help people with diabetes understand, monitor and manage their diabetes to help them stay healthy. Available in English and Spanish.
  • How to Help a Loved One Cope with Diabetes: This tip sheet provides practical suggestions for helping loved ones cope with diabetes. It also lists organizations that can help. Available in English and Spanish.
  • Diabetes HealthSense: Diabetes HealthSense is an online library that provides easy access to more than 160 resources from more than 80 organizations that support people with diabetes, people at risk for the disease and those who care for them in making changes to live well or facilitating behavior change in others.
  • Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed: A Guide for School Personnel: This comprehensive resource helps students with diabetes, their health care team, school staff and parents work together to provide optimal diabetes management in the school setting.

For more information on living with diabetes and National Diabetes Month, visit TDH provides information on diabetes management at

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at