November: Diabetes Awareness Month

With worldwide 347 million people having diabetes (source: World Health Organization or WHO) and 3.4 million people dying from consequences of high blood sugar alone in 2004; this disease becomes real. When taking into account that for example in the United States alone; 8.3 % of total people have diabetes (25.8 million people) and 26.9% of people ages 65 or older have diabetes, (source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC) it seems like most families knows at least one person with diabetes…. It’s a disease that affects every day of a person’s life, which affects every bite they take, that affects how often they have to visit a doctor, how many infections they develop, and a disease that might affect eyesight and kidney problems among other body functions.

Now, I am not talking about type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile onset diabetes. This is most likely an autoimmune disease that develops early, but not always early, in a person’s life and in which people’s pancreas stops making insulin. This disease is treated by daily injections of insulin and by closely watching carbohydrate intake. Only about 5% of people developing diabetes have type 1 diabetes. Their problems are real and serious, which I will not go into right now.

Type 2 diabetes, developed by more than 25 million people in the US, causes similar symptoms as Type 1 Diabetes such as; blurry vision, excess thirst, fatigue, hunger, urinating often and weight loss, but sometimes people with type 2 diabetes hardly show any of the symptoms or they go unnoticed for a long time. What makes this disease so relevant is that the numbers for this disease have increased with the increase in obesity levels in our country and the risk for developing diabetes goes down with a healthy body weight. Not all ethnicities are affected the same, Hispanics, Native Americans and African American races have a higher risk and that is true for children of those same ethnicities as well. Before people develop Type 2 Diabetes they might develop pre-diabetes, showing higher blood sugar levels than normal, but not high enough to be considered of a diabetic level. Even these slightly higher blood sugar levels seem to cause damage to the body.

Type 2 diabetes can be regulated by the use of healthy menu plans, exercise plans (30 to 60 minutes daily), weight loss and taking oral medication according to the CDC. Most people will have to practice all these behaviors consistently in order to get their blood sugar under control. If they don’t, the chance of developing other complications, such as bad eyesight, kidney disease and infections that don’t heal, will go up. Not an easy task. On the other hand if considerable weight loss is accomplished and patient stays active, symptoms might go away and the risk of developing complications will go down too…

So what are healthy meals? Meals with lots of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, a small amount of protein and not eating too much. When using dairy, choose for a lean kind such as fat free yogurt or 1% fat milk. Fat free milk, soy, or almond milk are responsible choices too. Further; a diet low in sugar containing sodas, low in candy and sweets and saturated fats will help to staying healthy as well. When putting food on your plate focus on vegetables first. Make it colorful by varying vegetables, or cook 2 different kinds to lighten up your plate. Have some fruit for dessert or as a snack. Make use of whole grains, such as brown rice or whole wheat bread to fill up faster while saving calories.

As what to do with the sugar you had bought to bake cookies with for the Holiday season? Consider giving away sugar scrubs this year. Use 1 part sugar for 2 parts oil, and for a nice scent add some vanilla or lemon extract. Click on the link for more information.

Prevention of type 2 diabetes is possible by maintaining a healthy weight and staying active during one’s life. Not an easy task for many either, but still a better option than having to deal with all possible complications. If you suspect that you or someone close to you has developed diabetes go to the doctor and discuss your options and care. It is important enough to take seriously and to treat early. Many of us dream of long lives with time and energy for traveling, or spending time with family and good health will help us fulfill these dreams.

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About Margreet Adriani

B.S. in dietetics, working toward a career in nutrition through paid and volunteer work at different places while trying to stay current on nutritional research
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