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November is National Diabetes Month. It’s a time to raise awareness of this very common condition.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, or blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy.
In most people with type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system, which normally fights infection, attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. As a result, the pancreas stops making insulin. Without insulin, glucose can’t get into your cells, and your blood glucose rises above normal levels.
In type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Too much glucose then stays in your blood, and not enough reaches your cells.
Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems, such as heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems, and kidney disease.
Experts estimate that more than 1 in every 10 Americans have diabetes. That’s more than 30 million people. And many, many more people are at risk for developing it later in life.
That risk depends on many things, including a person’s family health history and their race or ethnicity. Diabetes is more common and often more severe for Hispanics, Latinos, and African Americans than it is among non-Hispanic whites. Scientists don’t fully understand why this is the case. That’s why it’s very important that diabetes research, as well as all other health research, include people of all races and ethnicities. And that’s why All of Us Research Program is gathering information that can help researchers learn more.
There’s no cure for diabetes, but it is treatable. People with type 1 diabetes should take insulin every day. For many people, type 2 diabetes can be managed with lifestyle changes such as exercise and food choices.
Edgar Gil Rico, M.B.A., travels to communities all over the country spreading the word about All of Us. While some people see new towns from their car windows, Edgar prefers to go on foot. “I try to go for a run in every city I visit,” he says. Jogging through a community gives Edgar a close-up view. He can see for himself what it’s like to live in these places every day.
Edgar is a leader at the National Alliance for Hispanic Health (NAHH), one of the All of Us Research Program’s community engagement partners. He says All of Us and NAHH make a great team for many reasons. One reason is a shared commitment to making health research more inclusive. Another is both groups’ focus on precision medicine—a way of personalizing health care based on a person’s unique lifestyle, environment, and genes.
“We understand that culture and environment is something that really affects the Hispanic community,” Edgar says. “Our community is very family oriented. When we first arrive as immigrants, we tend to not live in the best neighborhoods and not have access to health care. We’ve seen the impact of having a family network, a good environment in which to live, access to fresh fruit and vegetables, and a place to walk. These things affect health.”
In addition to his neighborhood jogs, Edgar also loves to run races. He recently completed a 50-kilometer (31-mile) race sponsored by the Marine Corps Marathon—while wearing an All of Us T-shirt to spread the word to spectators and other runners. The Marine Corps Marathon is also known as “The People’s Marathon”—because like All of Us, it’s open to all. “It’s a cool match,” Edgar says. “It’s for everyone.”
Want to learn more about Edgar? Watch his interview, and others, in All of Us and AARP’s Create the Good series.
Veterans Day was November 11. All of Us recognizes the many contributions of U.S. veterans—as service members and as participants in health research.
As a group, veterans have unique perspectives and health concerns. Treating these conditions can be difficult. Experiencing war can affect a person’s body and mind for their entire life, often in ways that science still does not understand. The more researchers can learn from veterans, the better treatment can become.
That’s why All of Us has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Million Veteran Program. Veterans who use VA hospitals and clinics can join All of Us to help speed up medical breakthroughs.
“Part of the reason I am alive is because of innovation in medicine,” says U.S. Army veteran Robert Murphy. “If you’re in a position that you know that you can help, I think it’s your duty as a human being.”
Earnest Hawkins, Jr., of the U.S. Marines, agrees. “For better solutions and better advances in medical care, I’ll gladly help if I’m asked. I do whatever I can to serve my country, the medical field, and the doctors that need me.”
Holiday dinners are a great time to talk to your family about your shared health history. Learning about conditions that run in your family can help you make better choices for your own health.
All of Us participants can log in to their accounts today to fill out the family health history survey. Sharing this history with researchers can help them study patterns in illness and health.
Leaders from the All of Us Research Program wrote a special report for the New England Journal of Medicine. The report highlights the program’s work so far, its successes, and its plans for the future. The authors write that the program will continue to advance as it grows, paving the way for new discoveries and breakthroughs.
# of stops by the All of Us Journey
# of participants who have completed the consent process
# of participants fully enrolled*
*Fully enrolled participants are those who have shared their health information with All of Us, including giving blood and urine or saliva samples.