How Can You Observe National Diabetes Awareness Month

Investing in Your Own Health Can Make a Huge Impact

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month—a month where people come together to raise awareness and attention to diabetes. Diabetes affects people of all walks of life and all ages.

As of 2018 an estimated 34.2 million people of all ages—or 10.5% of the US population—had diabetes, and an estimated 88 million adults aged 18 years or older had prediabetes, a precursor.

Diabetes is also one of the most common chronic conditions in school-age youth in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 210,000 children and adolescents younger than age 20 years—or 25 per 10,000 American youths—had diagnosed diabetes. This includes 187,000 with type 1 diabetes.

No matter what age you are or what type of diabetes you have, investing in your health can not only help raise awareness but have a huge impact on preventing, managing, and living a full life with diabetes.

5 Healthy Habits for Diabetes Awareness Month

Theresa Chiechi / Verywell

Small Steps for Healthy Habits

Diabetes can be an overwhelming disease because there is so much to think about on a daily basis: Did you take your medicine? Is it time to check your blood sugar? What will you eat today? Did you exercise enough? Why is your blood sugar elevated? It's important to try not to get overwhelmed and manage one task at a time.

And if you need help, ask for it. Whether it be asking a family member to help with the kids while you prep dinner, calling a friend to go for a walk, or reaching out to a diabetes organization so that you can connect with someone in your situation, it's important to find support.

Below you'll find some simple, yet highly effective ways that you can invest in your health or that of a loved one.

Eat More Plants

Higher intakes of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts have been associated with a substantially lower risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes and improved glycemic control in either normal or insulin-resistant individuals.

A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation concluded that a higher intake of fruit, especially berries, and green leafy vegetables, yellow vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, or fiber from these sources is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

A study published in 2020 in the British Medical Journal found that increasing vegetable intake by about half a cup per day can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 25%. Other studies have shown a reduced rate of inflammation in people with type 1 diabetes who eat high-fiber diets (more than 30 grams daily).

Plant based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and seeds are rich sources of fiber.

Fiber can help reduce cholesterol, promote feelings of fullness, and prevent blood sugar excursions (highs and lows). If you don't eat many plants, aim to start slowly, one meal at a time.

Most adults should consume about 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit per day and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day, yet the CDC states that only 1 in 10 adults are eating enough.

Keep in mind, the number of servings will vary based on your age and activity level. Kids need to consume less than adults, for example.

Some tips for getting in more plants include:

  • Add ½ to 1 cup serving of berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries) to your oatmeal, toast, yogurt, or smoothie in the morning.
  • Add 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, squash, zucchini, or cauliflower to your salad, soup, or whole-grain wrap for lunch.
  • Snack on an apple, pear, or citrus fruit with a tablespoon of nut butter or a handful of unsalted nuts. Or cut up some fresh crudité—raw carrots, peppers, celery, or broccoli—and pair it with a tablespoon or two of hummus or guacamole.
  • Make one night a week a meatless. Serve up some grain bowls using 1 cup of whole grain such as quinoa, barley, bulgur, farro, or brown rice. Add your favorite vegetables, herbs, and seasonings.
  • Swap your dessert with fresh fruit, such as 1 cup of melon or frozen berries.

Colorful Fruit or Veggie of the Week

Have your children choose one colorful fruit or vegetable for the week. Use it in a rotating menu to reduce food waste, increase nutrition, and simplify decision fatigue.

For example, if your child chooses sweet potatoes and mangos, you can make sweet potato fries, baked sweet potato, or roasted sweet potatoes. Add some chopped mango to yogurt, blend it in a smoothie, or snack on it by itself.

Meal Prep for the Week

Reduce your sodium intake by preparing meals for the week. Frozen prepared foods and take-out can often be rich in sodium. A diet rich in sodium can increase blood pressure and lead to hypertension.

People with diabetes and those at risk for it are at an increased risk of hypertension, particularly if they don't adhere to certain lifestyle modifications such as maintaining a healthy weight, reducing sodium intake, exercise, and smoking cessation.

According to a study published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, regular menu items have an average of 2,196 milligrams of sodium per 1,000 calories and children’s menu items had 1,865 milligrams per 1,000 calories.

The American Heart Association recommends that most adults consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day and federal dietary guidelines currently recommend no more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily (equivalent to about 1 teaspoon of salt).

If you are eating out often or taking home food a few times per week, the sodium counts can really add up, as restaurants account for about 25% of excess sodium intake.

Doing a meal preparation day or a batch cooking day where you make larger amounts of food once a week can help to reduce sodium at home because you are in control of the ingredients. Great batch cooking foods include whole grains, legumes, roasted vegetables, dips (e.g., hummus, guacamole, and yogurt dips), and homemade salad dressings.

These foods are great to have on hand to add to egg dishes, grain dishes, salads, soups, or side dishes. Consider allocating about one hour or so to do some meal preparation on a day off so that you are equipped to make better choices when things are busy during the week.

You'll not only reduce the amount of sodium you are eating, but you will probably feel more energized. And if weight loss is a goal for you, that is possible, too. Lastly, you will have less stress because you will have your meals planned out.

Type 1 Diabetes Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman

Take Work Breaks

Many people began to work from home when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. You may find that eliminating your commute means you are spending more time sitting down and working. While your employer probably isn't complaining, too much sitting is not good for your health.

In fact, researchers have found that sedentary behavior (no matter what length of time) is particularly harmful to those people who do not participate in physical activity.

Experimental studies that mimicked sedentary behavior in a laboratory setting have also provided evidence of greater postprandial (after meal) glucose and insulin levels during bouts of prolonged sitting (i.e., seven hours) compared with individuals taking frequent standing or walking breaks.

As hard as it may be, aim to block out 30 minutes once a day for exercise, walking, or other physical activities. If it's just impossible to do this every day, try to do it a few times a week. Or you can aim to simply get out of your chair every 30 minutes to an hour to stretch and march in place. The key is to refrain from sitting for extended periods of time.

Find a Type of Exercise You Love

Exercise is a huge part of blood sugar management as well as overall health in people with diabetes and prediabetes. Most people have heard this already, but that doesn't always mean they are incorporating more exercise into their lives.

Oftentimes, the reluctance is time-related or due to the sheer fact that they haven't found something that they enjoy.

Now to make things more complicated, many gyms are functioning at reduced capacity, requiring those who show up to wear masks, and understandably some people may not be comfortable doing that. Now you really need to get creative, but perhaps this can help you engage in activities that you truly enjoy.

Sustainable healthy habits like exercise occur when you enjoy what you are doing. This month, encourage yourself to do something you truly love. Or even better, do something you love with someone you love.

Schedule exercise into your day as you would any other meeting. Consider going for a walk with a friend or pet before or after work, sign up for a virtual race in your community, or an on-demand exercise streaming service that offers fun classes like kickboxing.

If weather permits, go for or a family hike or bike ride, jump on the trampoline (if you have one), set up an obstacle course, play a game of tag, or turn on your favorite music and dance until you sweat.

Go to Sleep an Hour Earlier

There is epidemiologic evidence that shows an association between shorter sleep and the prevalence or incidence of diabetes mellitus and/or obesity. In fact, researchers have found higher rates of type 2 diabetes in individuals who get less than six hours of sleep.

National sleep guidelines advise that healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. People over 65 should also get seven to eight hours per night. Babies, young children, and teens need even more sleep to enable their growth and development.

It may seem impossible to get this much sleep, especially if you have to log on to work after getting your family to rest or if you work nights. But, don't be discouraged. This information is not meant to overwhelm or add another thing to your already explosive to-do list, rather to remind you or make you aware of how important sleep is.

Even if you can add one more hour to your nightly regimen, or 30 minutes at night and 30 minutes in the morning, you will reap the benefits. Set a goal for yourself to try to go bed around the same time every night.

If you wake up in the morning feeling as if you need a ton of coffee to wake up or that you can go back to sleep in the next hour or so, odds are you are not getting enough sleep.

Simplify Your Regimen

If your diabetes regimen is too complicated and you feel like you are always forgetting to take your medication or you can't seem to understand how to work your blood glucose meter, then you could benefit from having a professional help you simplify things.

Simplifying a diabetes regimen may mean that instead of taking multiple pills a day, your healthcare provider can prescribe you an oral medication that has both medicines combined into one pill.

Or perhaps you need help with your diabetes supplies. Instead of having multiple prescriptions from different pharmacies and distributors, you may be able to have your diabetes supplies delivered to your home.

Simplifying your diabetes regimen will reduce stress, improve your diabetes control, and leave more time for other healthy behaviors, such as exercise and meal planning.

Type 2 Diabetes Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Man

Check Out New Technology

Diabetes technology has made so many advances to improve and simplify the lives of people with diabetes. However, because technology can change so rapidly, some people may find technology too overwhelming and burdensome, and subsequently are not receiving the full benefit.

The American Diabetes Association defines diabetes technology as hardware, devices, and software that people with diabetes use to help manage blood glucose levels, stave off diabetes complications, reduce the burden of living with diabetes, and improve quality of life.

When applied appropriately, diabetes technology can assist those with diabetes in simplifying their daily tasks. For example, people or parents of children with type 1 diabetes may sleep easier at night if their child uses an insulin pump that makes automatic basal insulin adjustments at night, which can help to prevent high and low blood sugars.

Smart devices such as smart insulin pens can be programmed to calculate insulin doses and provide downloadable data reports to share with your medical team. These reports can assist professionals in making insulin adjustments and other necessary changes to improve blood sugar control.

Newer insulin pens also vary with respect to dosing increment and minimal dose, which can range from half-unit doses (for those who need less insulin) to 2-unit dose increments, which can help with fine-tuning dosing.

Apps to manage blood sugars by calculating insulin doses, and carbohydrate counting are also available. Smart meters, such as Livongo, allow for unlimited blood glucose testing, communication, and coaching from your medical team.

Continuous glucose monitors (CGM) can help to track blood sugar trends and alert those with diabetes when their blood sugar is going up and down so that they can make insulin adjustments.

The FreeStyle Libre System (a newer CGM) can produce real-time blood glucose readings every minute which you can check by scanning the sensor with a smartphone app or reader. This doesn't replace finger sticks altogether, but it greatly reduces them.

Insulin pumps eliminate multiple daily injections, and when used appropriately can improve blood sugar control by allowing for very specific dose adjustments throughout the day.

Hybrid closed loop (otherwise referred to as an artificial pancreas) models can automatically adjust insulin levels based on continuous glucose monitor readings.

Many of these wearable technologies are also waterproof and can provide the user with a large amount of data. If you have diabetes and are interested in new technology, discuss your options with your medical team. If you have insurance, you will also want to contact your carrier to see what you are eligible for and how much you will incur in out-of-pocket expenses.

Make Mental Health a Priority

Life can be hard and stressful for anyone; add diabetes to the mix and day-to-day life can be extremely overwhelming at times. According to the CDC, untreated mental health issues can make diabetes worse, and problems with diabetes can make mental health issues worse.

But fortunately if one gets better, the other tends to get better, too. It is estimated that people with diabetes are two to three times more likely to have depression than people without diabetes and that only 25% to 50% of people with diabetes who have depression get diagnosed and treated.

Depression is serious and should be addressed right away by a medical professional. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression such as feeling sad or empty, losing interest in your favorite activities, having difficulty eating or sleeping, or feel hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty regularly, reach out to your healthcare team.

If you aren't feeling depressed, but are instead feeling burnt out from your own diabetes or taking care of a loved one, understand that it's OK to feel this way and that you need support. Getting support is important.

Consider calling your insurance (if applicable) to find out your options for a mental health professional, reach out to your healthcare team for advice, or reach out to a diabetes organization for support. Teaming up with someone else who knows what you are going through can make a world of difference.

Meet With a Diabetes Specialist

Whether you've had diabetes for a long time, have been recently diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, you will benefit from meeting with a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES).

Consider a CDCES your personal diabetes cheerleader who can help you manage your diabetes by providing nutrition and medication advice, coordinating appointments, and educating you on a variety of subjects, including foot care, how to properly store insulin, where to inject insulin, and more.

According to the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists, diabetes self-management education may lower the risk of diabetes complications as well as decrease costs. It does this by reducing or eliminating medications and emergency rooms visits, as well as helping people access cost-savings programs.

Contact your insurance provider to see if diabetes education is covered so that you may receive self-management education today. It is covered by Medicare and most healthcare plans.

Give Yourself a Pat on the Back

Acknowledge the challenges that come with diabetes so that you may have permission to congratulate yourself for all of your hard work. Take the time to recognize the things you have done instead of focusing on what you haven't.

It's OK to have a blood sugar that is out of range from time to time. And if you are a parent to a child with diabetes or are taking care of a loved one with diabetes, applaud yourself for all of your hard work and aim to refrain from feeling guilty when things aren't perfect.

A Word From Verywell

Diabetes affects people of all ages, professions, races, and ethnicities. It is important to take the time to acknowledge diabetes and all of the factors that can influence the disease.

During Diabetes Awareness Month, take the challenge of investing in small, simple changes that can heavily impact the health and well-being of yourself or your loved one. Regardless of what type of diabetes you have and what your journey with it has looked like, it is never too late make some changes.

17 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report 2020.

  2. Olfert MD, Wattick RA. Vegetarian diets and the risk of diabetesCurr Diab Rep. 2018;18(11):101. doi:10.1007/s11892-018-1070-9

  3. Wang PY, Fang JC, Gao ZH, Zhang C, Xie SY. Higher intake of fruits, vegetables or their fiber reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes: A meta-analysis. J Diabetes Investig. 2016;7(1):56-69. doi:10.1111/jdi.12376

  4. Heng J, Sharp S, Imamura F, et al. Association of plasma biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake with incident type 2 diabetes: EPIC-InterAct case-cohort study in eight European countriesBMJ. 2020;370:m2194. doi:10.1136/bmj.m2194

  5. Bernaud FS, Beretta MV, do Nascimento C, et al. Fiber intake and inflammation in type 1 diabetesDiabetol Metab Syndr. 2014;6:66. doi:10.1186/1758-5996-6-66

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits or vegetables.

  7. de Boer IH, Bangalore S, et. al. Diabetes and hypertension: A position statement by the American Diabetes Association. Dia Care. 2017;40(9)1273-1284. doi:10.2337/dci17-0026

  8. Wu HW. Unsavory choices: The high sodium density of U.S. chain restaurant foods. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 2015(40):103-105. doi:10.1016/j.jfca.2014.12.018

  9. American Heart Association. Effects of sodium infographic.

  10. Pulsford RM, Blackwell J, Hillsdon M, Kos K. Intermittent walking, but not standing, improves postprandial insulin and glucose relative to sustained sitting: a randomised cross-over study in inactive middle-aged men. J Sci Med Sport. 2017;20:278–283. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2016.08.012

  11. Colberg SR, Sigal RJ, et. al. Physical activity/exercise and diabetes: A position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Dia Care. 2016;39(11)2065-2079. doi:10.2337/dc16-1728

  12. Morselli L, Leproult R, Balbo M, Spiegel K. Role of sleep duration in the regulation of glucose metabolism and appetite. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010;24(5):687-702. doi:10.1016/j.beem.2010.07.005

  13. Walker M. Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams. Penguin Books; 2018. pp170.

  14. Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, et al. National Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health. 2015;1(1):40-43. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010

  15. American Diabetes Association. 7. Diabetes technology: Standards of medical care in diabetes—2022Diabetes Care. 2022;45(Supplement 1):S97-S112. doi:10.2337/dc22-S007

  16. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes and mental health.

  17. Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists. How a diabetes care and education specialist can help you.

By Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN
Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.