By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN
Ironically, we kick off a month in which we are trying to cure diabetes immediately on the heels of a holiday celebrated by the majority of Americans that involves consuming massive amounts of sugar. This is sad to me on a number of fronts, but mostly because people do not realize the direct link between what they eat and what diseases show up in their body as a result of it.

Here are some statistics taken from www.diabetes.org:

  • Nearly 30 million adults and children in the United States have diabetes
  • Another 86 million have prediabetes, thus at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes
  • Total national cost of Diabetes care in the United States is approximately $245 billion
  • Those with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized for heart attack or stroke
  • Diabetes causes nearly 50% of kidney failure
  • More than half of all amputations in adults occur in those with diabetes
  • More than half a million Americans advanced retinopathy (disease of the retina in the eye) causing severe vision loss
  • One in 10 healthcare dollars is spent on diabetes care or that of its complications
  • One in 5 healthcare dollars is spent caring for people with diabetes

Even worse, Alabama ranks 47th in the nation for Diabetes and its complications. This means that only 3 other states are doing worse than we are in preventing and treating this deadly disease. In Alabama, 510,000 people have been diagnosed with Diabetes, and an additional 254,000 have prediabetes.

Let’s start with defining terms. Diabetes is a group of diseases that affects how your body uses blood sugar (or glucose). A diagnosis of diabetes means there is too much sugar in your blood. There are two types, 1 and 2. Type 1 is usually diagnosed in younger children and teens, previously called juvenile diabetes. Type 2 is usually seen in older adults, but has become more prevalent in teens and children in recent years. Prediabetes is when your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not yet high enough to classify as a diagnosis of diabetes. Gestational diabetes is developed during pregnancy when blood sugar levels are elevated.

Most of the following information is related to type 2 diabetes, as this type is most prevalent.

Risk Factors for Diabetes:

  • Obesity/overweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Over age 45
  • Race (increased in Hispanic/Latino, African American, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders)
  • Family history of Diabetes
  • Smoking

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry even if you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts/bruises are slow to heal
  • Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands or feet

Complications:

  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Foot complications
  • Eye complications
  • Neuropathy
  • Skin complications
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

As with most diseases, changes in diet and lifestyle can make a difference. It can prevent disease, reverse some of the effects, improve overall health, and decrease the complications. The same is true of diabetes when it is caught early enough. After a certain point, even changes in diet and lifestyle may not reverse the disease itself, but it will certainly help prevent the complications of it. Type 2 Diabetes can often be prevented or delayed by losing only 7% of your total body weight. For someone who weighs 250 pounds, that means you would only need to lose 17.5 pounds!

How can you do that? By making one simple change at a time. Increase your physical activity. Go for a walk. If you can walk for 5 minutes, walk for five minutes. Increase that amount of time little by little, working your way up to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Make small simple changes in diet, such as decreasing sweets and sodas, and increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet. The United States government recommends that fully HALF of your plate at EVERY meal should be fresh, raw, fruits and/or vegetables, or 9-13 fruits and vegetables every day.

Some fun ways to make those changes are recommended bye the American Diabetes Association include:

  • Get Moving Mondays
  • Tasty Tip Tuesdays
  • What’s Cooking Wednesdays
  • Get Together Thursdays
  • Fact Check Fridays
  • Weekend Challenge

For more information, please visit www.diabetes.org.
By: Rachel Clark, RN BSN

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