Good Life

World Diabetes Day is a wakeup call for healthy living

World Diabetes Day, celebrated this Friday, is an event initiated in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation to raise global awareness of this disease. It falls in the middle of American Diabetes Month, which is designated by the American Diabetes Association to raise awareness of diabetes in this country.

The theme of World Diabetes Day 2014 is “Healthy Living: Healthy Breakfast Start to the Day,” because eating a healthy breakfast reduces the risk of diabetes, helps in maintaining weight loss and helps balance blood sugar for people with diabetes.

A hallmark of World Diabetes Day over the years has been the lighting of iconic buildings in blue, and Centre County has had the greatest concentration of such buildings in the world. Entities that have participated include the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Bryce Jordan Center, Hotel State College, the Autoport, Harrison’s Wine Grill, Hoss’s Steak and Sea House, ACE Hardware, Mount Nittany Medical Center and its satellite buildings, and many private residences.

Over the years, on or around Nov. 14, People Centre’d on Diabetes has partnered with the CDT to raise awareness of diabetes in our area through publishing a series of articles about diabetes and diabetes prevention. The articles this year are intended to help raise awareness of various facets of this growing problem, some of which one might wish to discuss with a health care team if you have diabetes or are at risk.

Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S. and is growing fast. This “diabetes tsunami” is the unintended consequence of a variety of factors, including agricultural changes in our basic foods, governmental policies and programs, the transition to the Information Age, and even the huge popularity of gaming systems, among a host of others. Each change, perhaps well-intended but with unforeseen results, come together to form the “perfect storm.”

Diabetes is a complex disease affecting every system, organ and function in the body. It is essentially an insulin problem. Insulin is the key that unlocks the door of each cell to allow glucose, or sugar, to enter as fuel. For type-1 diabetes, the problem is that the body’s immune system attacked the pancreas — where insulin is produced — stopping the body’s ability to produce this hormone. For type-2, the issue is with the body’s ability to use the insulin that is produced. Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during the hormone flood of pregnancy.

Regardless of what causes diabetes, the treatment is essentially the same: a combination of good nutrition, exercise, medication and lifestyle changes. Because every person has a unique lifestyle, unique genetics and a unique metabolism, every person will have a very personalized plan for finding the right diet, activities, medications and other lifestyle practices to deal with this disease. For example, some people have good results from a vegetarian diet, while others will swear by the Paleo diet, which stresses the importance of avoiding foods unavailable to humans during the Paleolithic era — dairy, grains, oils and refined sugards. Some enjoy a daily run or walk in the park while others prefer hitting the gym. Medications that work well for this person don’t work at all for that one, and cause problems for yet another. And some folks might use their daily walk to help reduce stress levels as a lifestyle practice while others prefer yoga or meditation. Finding the right combination of diet, activity, meds and lifestyle can be challenging, but it can be exciting and empowering as well.

The most important part of any plan to deal with diabetes or greatly reduce the risk of developing it is being actively involved in your own health. Learn if you are at risk for diabetes or for potential complications. Learn what kinds of things have worked for other people with diabetes and then figure out if they also work for you. Learn how to best communicate with your health care team so you can live fully engaged in the things that truly matter to you.

These articles may point you toward some other ideas you can discuss with your health care team. They come from a wide variety of folks — health care professionals, fitness pros and people living with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

So remember: You are in charge of your health. No one cares about it more than you do. Managing (or preventing) diabetes isn’t just about living longer; it’s about enjoying the trip.