ST. CLOUD -- November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and with COVID-19 circulating and flu-season approaching, the topic is particularly important.

Diabetes is broken down into two types and is characterized by either the body’s inability to produce insulin, the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar, or the cells' resistance to the use of it.

Elisa Nielson is an RN and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist with CentraCare. She says people with diabetes are not at a higher risk to contract the virus but are more likely to have difficulty fighting it or other illnesses if they get sick.

Illness is a stress to your body and it causes a person's blood sugar levels to go up. It causes them to actually have more insulin resistance when they have illness happening, and so it makes it harder for them to keep their blood sugars down. When your blood sugars go up it makes it harder for your body to fight off infection, so the goal would be to not get sick in the first place.

Saturday is World Diabetes Day. This year’s theme, “The Nurse and Diabetes,” is working to highlight the role nurses play in supporting people with the disease. Nielson says at CentraCare, diabetes patients are set up with a team that includes a nurse and a dietician who work with you and your primary doctor to monitor and manage blood sugar levels.

Nielson says the overall rates of diabetes and pre-diabetes are on the rise and when it comes to type two, many people do not have noticeable symptoms at first.

If you have pre-diabetes you are not necessarily going to even have any symptoms and that's kind of one of the big things with when your blood sugars start creeping up, even as well as if your blood pressure starts creeping up. You might not notice that you have any symptoms until it gets to the point that it's so extremely high.

She recommends annual visits to your doctor and monitoring of your blood sugar and blood pressure levels especially if you feel you could be at a higher risk of developing diabetes. For the most part, type two can be managed with lifestyle changes that include adjusting eating and exercise habits.

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