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Diet, Exercise Are Effective Diabetes Prevention in Older Adults

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Diet, Exercise Are Effective Diabetes Prevention

Diet, Exercise Are Effective Diabetes Prevention in Older Adults

November 13, 2007

By: Laurie Edwards for Diabetes1

For older adults who face increased risk of type 2 diabetes, recent studies show it is not too late to delay – or even prevent – the onset of this disease. Experts have found that for adults over age 60, losing modest amounts of weight and increasing exercise can significantly reduce this risk.

Over 18.2 million people in the U.S. suffer from diabetes and another 5.2 million people remain undiagnosed. Moreover, 40 percent of adults aged 40 to 74 have pre-diabetes, which elevates the risk of developing type-2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease. With such staggering numbers, experts want patients to know that there is still time to make lifestyle changes that effectively reduce the risk of diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body cannot properly utilize insulin, the hormone that converts starches and sugars into energy. Genetic factors as well as environmental ones – namely obesity and lack of physical activity – contribute to the development of the disease.

Type 1 diabetes occurs in approximately 5 to 10 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes, and is the result of the body’s inability to produce insulin.

Much more common is type 2 diabetes, which is a resistance to or insufficient use of whatever insulin the body is capable of supplying. Obesity and lack of exercise are greatly associated with type 2 diabetes.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) National Diabetes Education Campaign (NDEP) is taking steps to spread the word about diabetes prevention in the older U.S. population – those at greatest risk of developing diabetes.

This month, the NDEP launched its public awareness campaign entitled “It’s Not Too Late To Prevent Diabetes. Take Your First Step Today.” This campaign entails radio and print public service announcements, as well as posters, tip sheets and other informative materials.

This campaign is part of a larger NDEP initiative called “Small Steps. Big Rewards. Prevent type 2 Diabetes”, which targets those groups at highest risk. In this case, the “It’s Not Too Late” campaign was formulated specifically for older adults.

“We are asking older adults to find out if they are at risk for type 2 diabetes, and we’re showing them how to take action to prevent it,” said NDEP Chair Dr. James R. Gavin III. “Older adults may not realize that they still have time to prevent diabetes, or that diabetes prevention is even possible. That’s why the ‘It’s Not Too Late’ campaign is so important.”

The impetus for the campaign stems partly from HHS’s Diabetes Prevention Program, a recent study which found that losing a small amount of weight by following a low-calorie diet and getting a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise five times a week can delay or even prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

For people over the age of 60, these lifestyle modifications worked especially well; the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was reduced by 71 percent.

“I adopted a healthy lifestyle and made the commitment to inform my family and friends that it’s not too late for people my age to prevent type 2 diabetes. Even small steps, like eating healthier foods and taking an afternoon walk can make a big difference,” said Sam Kitching, a participant in the launch of the new public awareness campaign.

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