Diabetes Prevention and Management
Diabetes is a serious medical condition that affects 17 million Americans. Diabetics have a higher blood glucose (blood sugar) level than normal. Heart disease, vision loss, stroke, nerve damage and kidney disease are just some of the potential health problems diabetes can cause. Diabetes has two sub-sets, Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, which accounts for 5-10% of diabetics, typically occurs in juveniles and cannot be prevented. Type 2 diabetes usually becomes apparent during adulthood but it is becoming more prevalent in children. Type 2 diabetes is preventable.
If you already have diabetes, managing your condition is important to stopping future health problems from developing. If you do not have diabetes, there are critical steps that can be taken to prevent the onset of this serious condition.
One of the best ways to prevent diabetes from getting worse or even from beginning to develop in your body is to know if you are at risk.
- Family History- The likelihood of getting diabetes increases greatly if you have had a blood relative who is diabetic.
- Race or Ethnic Background- Those of African-American, Asian American, Latino/Hispanic-American, Native American or Pacific Islander descent have a higher chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- Age- The risk of diabetes increases with age. Type 2 diabetes occurs most frequently after age 45.
- Weight– 50% of men and 70% of women who have diabetes are obese.
- Lack of Physical Activity- High rates of inactivity are correlated with higher instances of diabetes.
- High Blood Pressure and Abnormal Cholesterol Levels- People who suffer from hypertension are at a greater risk for developing diabetes, as are those with low HDL (“good” cholesterol) and/or high triglycerides.
- Sleep Patterns: New research found that women who increase the hours they sleep by more than two hours each night and women who sleep less than six hours each night regularly might be at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
What You Can Do
Now that you know what factors can leave you with a predisposition to diabetes, what can you do to stop it? There are several lifestyle changes people can make in order to manage their condition or to reduce their chances of having diabetes in the future.
- Increase Physical Activity- By working out more, particularly through walking, you can lose weight, lower blood sugar levels and boost sensitivity to insulin.
- Eat Better- Making choices like including more fibrous foods in your diet and choosing whole-wheat grains can promote weight loss and improve control over blood sugar levels.
- Track Your Health Numbers- Knowing information like your blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and weight can help you measure progress.
Knowing the factors that put you at risk for diabetes and understanding how to prevent your physical condition from worsening are key components in avoiding a struggle with diabetes later in life. Pay attention to warning signs, take care of your body through physical activity and make healthier food choices and you will be well on your way to preventing or managing a diabetic condition.
Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works