Diabetes is a growing problem in the U.S. Nearly 12 percent of men and 11 percent of women now have the disease, and more are being diagnosed every day. And those numbers don't include the people who already have diabetes but don't know it yet.
Are you at risk?
People who have family members with the disease, unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to get diabetes, which occurs when your body has problems producing or using insulin. Diabetes isn't just about blood sugar, it also means a higher risk of other health issues like heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, vision loss and nerve damage. If that's not enough to get your attention, diabetes is also the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. — a good reason to take prevention and treatment seriously.
But the news is not all doom and gloom. New research is showing that some small lifestyle changes can keep you from getting diabetes even if you are at risk.
The diabetes basics
According to the National Diabetes Education Program, there are three main types of diabetes:
· Type 1, believed to result from a disorder in the immune system;
· Type 2, responsible for between 90 and 95 percent of cases;
· Gestational diabetes, which occurs during a pregnancy and resolves after delivery.
While Type 1 diabetes is not preventable through lifestyle changes, you can head off Type 2 and gestational diabetes. The first step in prevention is to figure out if you're at risk.
Risk factors include:
- Age 45 and older demographic;
- Family history of diabetes;
- African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American/Pacific Islander heritage;
- History of gestational diabetes during pregnancy;
- High cholesterol;
- Sedentary lifestyle.
If any of these apply to you, it may be time to talk to your doctor about getting tested.
Diabetes warning signs
In some cases you may actually already have diabetes and not know it. According to the American Diabetes Association, it's time to see your doctor if you:
- Urinate frequently;
- Feel excessively thirsty or hungry;
- Are losing weight without trying;
- Are tired and irritable;
- Have recurrent infections;
- Have blurred vision;
- Feel tingling in your hands or feet.
Small changes add up
If you don't have diabetes, it's important to focus on prevention. The government's Small Steps Big Rewards Program focuses on teaching people to make manageable improvements in health and lifestyle. This includes losing a small amount of weight — drop between five and seven percent of your body weight to reduce your risk. Shed those pounds by cutting calories and fat and boosting your exercise to 30 minutes, five days a week.
Other dietary changes that can be effective are:
- Fruits and vegetables;
- Non-starchy vegetables whenever possible;
- Whole grains;
- Lean proteins.
In the end these small changes can add up to big health benefits and help keep you from being one of the growing number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes each day.
For more information, please visit the following links:
- National Diabetes Education Program ndep.nih.gov/diabetes-facts/index.aspx
- American Diabetes Association www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/symptoms/?loc=DropDownDB-symptoms
- Small Steps Big Rewards Program ndep.nih.gov/publications/PublicationDetail.aspx?PubId=71
- Type 2 diabetes risk factors http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002072.htm
- Healthy food choices www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices.html
- Types of diabetes http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001350/
- Complications from diabetes http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/