Written for Diabetes1 by Michelle Alford
Over eight percent of Americans (25.8 million people) have diabetes and 1.9 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in 2010 alone, according to the National Diabetes Fact Sheet released January 2011. Seventy-nine million Americans, or over one-fourth of the American population, have prediabetes—a state of above normal blood glucose levels that raises the risk of developing diabetes. Knowing whether you are at risk helps you not only prevent developing diabetes, but also the many complications of diabetes, which include heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, neuropathy, and amputation. Today, on the 23rd annual Alert Day, the American Diabetes Association is encouraging everyone to take a short test to find out if they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Some risk factors for Diabetes cannot be avoided. You are more likely to develop diabetes if you are male, if other members of your immediate family have suffered from diabetes, or if you belong to certain racial and ethnic groups, including African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Pacific Islanders. Your risk of developing diabetes also increases as you age.
However, many risk factors are avoidable. The following steps can improve your health and lower your risk of developing diabetes:
- Replace your favorite meals with healthy alternatives. Eat fruits instead of fatty desserts, substitute in leaner or vegetarian meat, choose whole grain breads and cereals, and drink water or homemade juice instead of sodas. Don’t force yourself to eat food you don’t like—instead, find healthy foods you love and eat them regularly.
- Keep active. Even moderate exercise can significantly lower your risk of developing diabetes. Start becoming more active by fitting exercise into your daily routine. Park further from the building, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and go on a walk during your lunch break. Try to make exercising fun. You are unlikely to continue workouts you hate—instead find activities that you enjoy, such as dancing, swimming, or biking.
- Talk to your doctor about how to best manage your blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop diabetes, as well as other medical issues including heart disease and stroke. Diet and exercise can help manage your blood pressure, as can drinking less alcohol and quitting smoking.
- Instead of trying to change everything at once, pick small, achievable goals and work your way up to your larger objectives. Every smaller goal you accomplish will increase your confidence and encourage you to pursue larger goals.
To find out your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, take the test at www.stopdiabetes.com, call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383), or text JOIN to 69866.
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Photo: Tony Alter