Switch on the television or flip through a magazine and you’re likely to see an ad about diabetes. While it’s good to know treatment breakthroughs abound, it’s important to focus on ways to avoid getting diabetes in the first place. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. A person diagnosed at age 50 dies, on average, six years earlier than someone without diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). It’s time to get serious about this deadly disease!
ONE IN THREE AMERICANS MAY EVENTUALLY DEVELOP DIABETES
Based on current trends, the risk of getting diabetes is alarming. Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose (blood sugar) level is too high. Type 2 diabetes, where the body does not make or use insulin well, accounts for the vast majority of cases. Type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed in children and young adults, only accounts for around five percent.
What’s causing America’s type 2 diabetes epidemic? Generally speaking, it’s due to the usual life-threatening suspects—inactivity, being overweight, unhealthy food choices, and aging.
STACK THE DECK IN YOUR FAVOR
The earlier you make changes through weight loss, a healthful diet, and regular exercise to avoid, slow down, or reverse type 2 diabetes, the better. Always check with your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise regimen.
GET YOUR MOVE ON
Working your muscles more often and making them work harder not only burns calories, it improves the muscle’s ability to use insulin and absorb glucose. Both aerobic and strength training exercises are recommended.
Not sure where to start? Try brisk walking at a fast pace to raise the heart rate, and strength training, which builds muscle mass. Studies show beneficial effects when people with diabetes participate in aerobic activities at least three days a week for a total of 150 minutes. The ADA recommends not to go more than two consecutive days without an aerobic exercise session. Strength training builds muscle mass, which can prompt your muscles to absorb more sugar. Plan for resistance exercise or weight training three times a week as part of your diabetes management or avoidance plan.
TUNE UP YOUR DIET
Opt for whole grains and whole grain products over highly processed carbohydrates, and skip sugary beverages, including fruit drinks. Select water, coffee, or unsweetened tea instead. Limit red meat and avoid processed meat. Consider nuts, poultry, or fish as a protein source instead.
Choose “good” fats, such as the polyunsaturated fats found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. Avoid “bad” fats, which are found in fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods, and highly saturated vegetable fats such as palm kernel oil. Avoid trans fat, such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
DID YOU KNOW…
- 30 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes, 9.3 percent of the population
- 37 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 years or older have prediabetes, yet only 11 percent have been told they have it
- 73,000 non-traumatic lower-limb amputations are performed in people with diabetes annually
TREATMENT—IT’S NOT JUST INSULIN
Insulin usually isn’t the first line of defense for type 2 diabetes treatment when diet and exercise alone are inadequate. Different types, or classes, of drugs work in various ways to lower blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, including:
- Stimulating the pancreas to release more insulin
- Decreasing the amount of glucose produced by the liver
- Helping insulin work better in the muscle and fat, and also reduce glucose production in the liver
- Blocking the breakdown of starches, such as bread, potatoes, and pasta in the intestine
- Helping to remove cholesterol from the body, particularly LDL cholesterol
- Passing glucose in bloodstream through the kidneys, where it can either be excreted or reabsorbed
When insulin treatment is indicated, delivery systems are improving, so you aren’t tethered to an insulin schedule. For instance, OmniPod, a small, water-resistant, tubeless insulin pump, attaches to the skin to provide continuous insulin delivery based on your needs. New methods being researched today even include a “smart” insulin patch designed to sense the blood sugar level and release insulin at the right time.