I’m lucky. I don’t have diabetes. And I want to keep it that way.
Probably through a combination of good genes, a moderately healthy lifestyle and diet, and pure luck, I have so far avoided this disease that is afflicting more and more Americans of all ages.
But I, too, have to pay attention.
I was only vaguely aware of diabetes until a few years ago. I knew of a few children who had Type-1, formerly called juvenile diabetes. And I was remotely aware of adult-onset diabetes, or Type-2. But I didn’t really understand the impact diabetes has.
It turns out that the modern lifestyle we all enjoy has stacked the deck against our health and in favor of Type-2 diabetes. Years spent carrying extra weight, eating fast and processed food, and sitting in cars and in front of TVs and computers are having major effects. Almost 26 million Americans have diabetes today, millions more are considered pre-diabetic, and it is estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the children born today will develop Type-2 diabetes in their lifetimes. One in five older than 65 now has it. It is everywhere.
Even those who seemingly don’t fit the “diabetes profile,” who are not overweight or inactive, are not safe because of factors they inherited.
All of this means that — slender or heavy, active or sedentary — we all need to be aware of the possibility of becoming diabetic and need to do everything we can to avoid this mark of modern living.
Much information is available about how to live with diabetes, and indeed, you can live a full and productive life with diabetes by making the necessary lifestyle changes. But a far better strategy is to avoid getting diabetes in the first place. Here are several things each of us can do to help keep diabetes away from our door:
• Know your numbers. The Mount Nittany Physician Group recommends that everyone know their body mass index, blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol and kidney function numbers. Insist that your health provider gives you these tests and explains the results. These numbers can give you a heads up about your current and future health. If you heed the warning signs early enough, some basic lifestyle and dietary changes may be all you need to do.
• Watch your weight. A high body mass index number is a warning.
• Watch your waist. That spare tire around your middle is a huge diabetes danger sign.
• Watch your diet. Fast and processed foods from burger joints and chain restaurants are loaded with salt, sugar and fat. Each can lead to problems if eaten in excess. Start by eliminating sugary drinks such as sodas and fruit beverages. Eat more whole fruits and vegetables. Cook your own food. Sound diet-ary advice is readily available.
• Exercise more. Walk, run, swim, bike, go to the gym, climb mountains — do something. Find what you like and just do it. One generally accepted goal is to take 10,000 steps each day. Think you are that active? Just buy an inexpensive pedometer and you’ll probably see how far short of that mark you fall. If your job involves sitting, you’ll never reach 10,000 steps unless you seek exercise.
We all know people with diabetes. Talk to them and listen to their diabetes stories. Listen to what they are doing (or not doing) to stay as healthy as possible. Learn from them to help yourself avoid diabetes, and encourage them in their diabetes fight. Do it for them — and for you.
Few who have diabetes suddenly “caught it.” It is almost always the result of many years of not knowing or ignoring the warning signs.
There are endless temptations out there that can lead to diabetes, but most of us have a choice: We can endure the lifestyle limitations, expense and pain of dealing with diabetes — or we can do everything humanly possible to keep from getting it in the first place.
This is the health battle of our lives, and we are all in it.