By now, you probably know that November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and that Nov. 14 was World Diabetes Day. That is why all those buildings were lit blue around the Centre Region and around the world, to remind us of the enormity of the problem and prompt each of us to do our part to stem the tide of diabetes.
Why do we all need to care? Diabetes approximately doubles the risk of death at all ages and causes many other problems. In the U.S., about 1 in 4 people of my generation will develop the disease in our lifetime. Even worse, for today’s teenagers, the prediction is that 1 in 3 will develop diabetes, unless something changes.
“Not me,” I used to think. “I am not going to get diabetes.”
I have played racquetball once or twice a week for most of my life, and I am only a little overweight. Neither of my parents was or is affected. Not me, I used to think, until a few years ago, when I saw my blood sugar on a routine test of 104 mg/dl. Normal is up to 100 mg/dl, and really healthy people have fasting blood sugars well below 90 mg/dl. I should know; I am a doctor who specializes in the treatment of diabetes.
But I am also human, and my first reaction, as that of any other human facing bad news, was to say, “This has to be wrong.”
Type 1 diabetes — about 5 percent of all cases of diabetes — is mostly due to factors that are inherited; the body turns against its own insulin cells, and most cases are first diagnosed before the age of 20. Factors that our parents pass on to us also are important in developing Type 2 diabetes. For those of us so predisposed, Type 2 is a matter of too much of a good thing, or rather too much of many good things, like too much by way of labor-saving devices (cars, remote controls, computers) and too much food.
Because I am at risk, I have made changes. I eat differently, and I have lost some weight. I still play racquetball a couple of times a week, but on a regular workday, I may get to only 3,000 steps on my pedometer. It is impossible to be healthy at that level of inactivity, and it turns out that what happens on most days may be more important than that twice-a-week exercise bout.
More to the point, however, is the fact that inactivity is bad for all of us.
And so this year I have taken on the million step challenge (learn more at diabetestakeiton.com). I have committed myself to move 1 million steps in the next six months starting Nov. 14, and 2 million steps by next World Diabetes Day. That’s about 5,500 steps on average per day. Take it on.
I will tweet about my effort @Jantakeiton. Do you want to join me or challenge me? Can you get to the first million steps before I do?