The journal Population Health Metrics, which comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published a report on October 22, 2010 that helps us confront the stark reality of the burdens of diabetes. We, as a country, need to remain diligent in our fight to care for those with diabetes and to slow down or stop preventable diabetes. The projections are that nearly 6 million Americans have diabetes, but many don’t know it. At this time, that translates into one in 10 adults; and CDC’s projections are that one in three American adults will have diabetes by 2050, if current obesity trends don’t change.
Ann Albright, the director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation says, “Diabetes is at the heart of a lot of issues.” It is the top cause of blindness, lower limb amputations, heart attack and stroke, kidney disease, some form of dementia, some forms of lung disease, and some forms of cancer. The point is that diabetes can seriously erode the quality of life. It is costly in both early loss of life, life quality and in dollars.
Ninety to 95% of people that develop diabetes develop Type 2 diabetes, and this type of diabetes is often the result of poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise. Don’t make the mistake of checking off the problem as only genetics. The obesity epidemic is certainly a strong factor driving the rise in diabetes cases; but the fact that people are living longer and that doctors are diagnosing them earlier are other factors that are involved in the increasing prevalence of this dread disease.
Some ethnic groups are twice as likely as white adults to have diabetes; they include African-American, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Natives. Yes, genetics plays a role, but don’t give up and say, “There’s nothing that I can do about this because of my genetics.” This is a self-fulfilling prophecy of despair, and is not true! There are definitely steps that can be taken to decrease risk and make your body something you are proud of and happy about; a body that will serve you well. These steps help accomplish the single most important goal – reduce weight, significantly if needed.
What can we individually do to reduce our risk of becoming diabetic, or to manage diabetes properly once it strikes a family member or us? Maintaining an ideal body weight and an active lifestyle may prevent Type 2 diabetes. The good news in the diabetes story is that healthy eating and exercising can have a dramatic impact on the symptoms and progression of Type 2 diabetes and its precursor, prediabetes. This is exactly how Dr. Grandpa turned his Type 2 diabetes diagnosis around. If you are overweight, have your glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) checked every 6 months; that way you will not let diabetes go on for a long time without even knowing what’s happening; that is, go on damaging your cells, sometimes for years, without even the chance of making changes.
- There’s really no such thing as a ‘diabetes diet;’ a healthy diet that can help prevent or delay the onset of complications for diabetes, does more than just keep your blood sugar under better control. What should you look for if you want to avoid or control diabetes?
- A diet that keeps calories under control.
- High in complex carbohydrates (found in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and whole grains). My advice is to skip fruit juice and eat whole fruit.
- Specifically increasing daily intake of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, can significantly lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- Lower your intake of saturated fats like cheese, whole milk, fatty meats, and butter. Choose fish and poultry more often. Trim visible fat from meat. Bake, roast, broil, grill, or boil instead of frying. Of course, zero trans fat is a part of this plan to reduce bad fats – that is accomplished by decreasing processed foods.
- Most often choose monounsaturated fat like olive oil, or canola oil.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugary drinks – soda pop; white flour, cookies, crackers, breads; mashed potatoes, white flour pasta, candies, and so on. Become a label reader.
- Because each individual has different exercise habits, eats different foods, is a different age, and has different health concerns, it’s best to balance your diet by working with a Registered Dietitian – preferably one with certification in diabetes care, to design a diet that will help keep your heart and body systems healthy.
Exercise is a key component for avoiding diabetes. Exercise tips are:
- Be sure to wear the proper footwear – avoiding foot injury is important especially for diabetics.
- Choose activities that are appropriate for your current fitness level.
- Exercise 6 – 7 days per week.
- Walking is easy and a great place to start.
- Using weights and resistance training can increase your percentage of muscle and lower the percentage of fat in your body, which leads to improvement in your insulin sensitivity – and that’s good.
The wake up call
Prediabetes is an in-between stage; the blood sugar (glucose) is higher than normal but not high enough to fit the diagnosis of diabetes. A prediabetes diagnosis should be a ‘wake up call’ that you’re on the road to Type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes translates into a greater than 70% chance of developing Type 2. It is worth the effort to make some lifestyle changes (especially dietary and physical activity) to slow down the progression or even preventing the onset.
The CDC projections are frightening; but the main take away lesson is that hope is NOT dead. We, as a nation, and as individuals can begin making changes that can turn those projections on their heel. Those changes hold the hope that millions of people can live fuller, healthier and longer lives. This issue is definitely worth the effort it takes to make changes. Share the message and make some healthy choices available at meals – especially watch holiday meals – and take a walk together instead of a nap.
Apples, Pineapple and Pistachio Salad
2 tablespoons frozen orange concentrate, defrosted
3 cups crisp salad apples, chopped
3 cups fresh pineapple, chopped
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
¾ cup pistachios
Defrost concentrate in the microwave. Chop the apples and stir into the concentrate to keep from browning. Stir in the pineapple, poppy seeds and pistachios. Serve or chill and serve.