There’s a good chance you’ve heard of diabetes. You may even know someone with the disease. But did you know that there are currently 422 million people worldwide living with a type of diabetes? And that there's more than one type? If not, don’t worry, you’re not alone. And that’s why today, on World Health Day, the global community is turning its attention to the disease to raise awareness and shed some light on the often misunderstood condition. And Nick Jonas knows how much that heightened awareness means.
“This disease can be isolating,” Jonas, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 13, tells InStyle. “We know all too well how much encouragement in the day-to-day battle is needed, as it can truly be a struggle, but the community we are building is real.”
Last year, Jonas co-founded Beyond Type 1, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the conversation around diabetes and bringing a new level of understanding and support to the global diabetes community.
“We founded Beyond Type 1 to help those living and affected by Type 1 diabetes live their very best life today, in this moment, right now, while also working to ensure a cure is on its way tomorrow,” says CEO and fellow co-founder Sarah Lucas, whose daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 7.
And a cure is crucial. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the world, responsible for 1.5 million deaths worldwide in 2012 alone. Currently, there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes and no real rhyme or reason to whom it affects and when. And that’s one of the common misconceptions the organization is hoping to bust.
“Type 1 can affect anyone at any time,” Lucas tells InStyle. “It is not a lifestyle disease, it’s not a kids’ disease. It’s an invisible disease that demands constant attention and a life-long dependence on insulin.”
In the same way, Type 2 diabetes can affect anyone at any age, but it is preventable. The risk of contracting Type 2, which accounts for most of the cases of diabetes worldwide, is associated with a higher waist circumference and higher body mass index. According to the WHO, just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and a healthy diet can drastically reduce one’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
And if you think simply knowing the difference between the types isn’t doing much, think again. Diabetes is often the punch line of jokes, especially about health. Even Jonas recalls being asked questions like "What did you eat that gave you diabetes?" and "Does that mean you were lazy as a kid?" when he was first diagnosed, even though Type 1 is unrelated to health or weight.
So, take some time today to learn more about diabetes, like the warning signs, and help be part of the global community working to end the stigma around the disease. “Life is about doing all you can to help other people,” Jonas says. “I’ve been able to raise my voice and share my story and hopefully help them in any way that I can. This is only the beginning of the impact we intend to make, and hopefully in my lifetime we will see a cure.”