Concerned about diabetes? Statistics confirm you should be. With 1.4 million new cases of Type 2 diabetes diagnosed annually in the U.S., if you are not affected, chances are someone you love is. Developing diabetes mellitus can put someone at risk for a host of other serious medical problems. Increased blood sugar contributes to the clogging of small arteries that nourish the brain, eyes, heart, kidneys and nerves. Diabetes is a major player in strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, blindness and nontraumatic amputations.
It is also very concerning that Type 2 diabetes is occurring at younger ages — we are seeing children and teenagers develop this type of diabetes, which we used to mainly see in older people. Type 2 diabetes (90 percent of all diabetes cases) emerges from a combination of genetic and lifestyle issues. The good news is that studies confirm Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable.
The Diabetes Prevention Program (a study funded by the U.S. government to see if and how Type 2 diabetes can be prevented) found that the risk of Type 2 diabetes can be cut by more than half by losing and keeping off about 5 percent of initial body weight, and by exercising about 150 minutes weekly. So, a 200-pound person who loses and keeps off 10 pounds and walks 30 minutes, five days per week can cut diabetes risk in half.
So, about losing that weight. One very effective way to lose weight and reduce the risk of diabetes is to stop ingesting so much sugar. For a normal blood sugar of 80-100, that translates into just a little more than a teaspoon of sugar in the entire 1.5 gallons of blood supply in the body. One teaspoon of sugar is about 4 grams. When someone downs a 12-ounce can of soda, they are driving 39 grams of sugar (about 10 teaspoons) into the bloodstream. That is extremely stressful for the body, and the frequent pounding of high-sugar beverages (soda, sweet tea, energy drinks, lattes and frappes, even juices touted to be “natural”) can put you at risk for diabetes, and that excess sugar will be stored in your body as fat. Read your nutrition facts. If a packaged food or drink item has more than 12 grams of sugar, reject it. It is unreasonable to expect your body to deal with it.
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We need to get back to fueling our bodies the way they were made. If you have not seen the “my plate” recommendations, check out choosemyplate .gov. We need to eat breakfast, lunch and supper, and each meal needs a source of lean protein, half a plate of any fruit or vegetable combination and just a quarter plate of grains/starches. Our snacks should include a fruit or veggie plus a lean protein. Limit the junk; you are worth more than junk.
It is very important to know your numbers, such as your fasting blood sugar and lipid profile (triglycerides, HDL, LDL), and see your doctor to determine your risks based on your medical history, family history, physical exam and medications you are taking. Whether you have diabetes or are at risk for it, taking steps toward weight loss (if you are overweight) and increasing your physical activity can go a long way toward living longer and better.
Need some more motivation to get moving? Why not start with the “Move Your Feeties for Diabetes” 5K or 1K run/walk and raise awareness of diabetes in Centre County at the same time? The walk is 9 a.m.-noon Nov. 12 at Tom Tudek Memorial Park in State College. Registration is available the morning of the event or online. Registration costs, as well as benefits of early registration and other walk information, can be found at centremoves.org.
Virginia Wray is an endocrinologist at Mount Nittany Physician Group