By Erica Moe
Editor’s Note: This column was adapted from content provided by Y of the USA for National Diabetes Month.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. The YMCA wants to spread the word and encourage you to know your risk for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes affects more than 29 million people. Chances are you know at least one person with diabetes and probably more than one with prediabetes.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that causes blood-sugar levels to rise higher than normal. A condition called prediabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. More than 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes has no cure, but prediabetes can be reversed.
The number of Type 2 diabetes cases continues to grow, fueled in part by a continued rise in the rate of obesity. Without weight loss and moderate physical activity, 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes within five years.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research shows that:
- Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
- Diabetes disproportionately affects black and Latino populations. These groups are nearly two times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
- People with diabetes are approximately 50 percent more likely to die than people of the same age without diabetes.
- Medical expenses for people with diabetes are 2.3 times greater than those without the disease.
- People with diabetes are at greater risk for stroke, nerve damage, blindness, dental disease, lower limb amputation, depression and complications during pregnancy.
The good news
While only a blood test by a health care provider can confirm prediabetes, a person’s family history, weight and high cholesterol levels are a few of the factors that can put an individual in the high-risk category.
If you believe you are at risk for developing diabetes, there are actions you can take. People with prediabetes who make basic lifestyle changes – such as modest weight loss, healthy eating and regular physical activity – can reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
A diabetes prevention program focuses on:
- Eating heathy: Consume smaller portions and reduce fat in your diet. Discovering healthier foods can help prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
- Increasing physical activity: Engage in thirty minutes of moderate physical activity – such as walking, swimming or mowing the lawn – five days a week. This can help improve your blood pressure, raise your good cholesterol and prevent blood flow problems.
- Losing weight: Reduce your body weight by as little as 5 to 7 percent. This can offer tremendous benefits for people at risk for diabetes.
The YMCA can help
In January, Toby Wells YMCA will begin a new session of JumpStart for Health, a diabetes prevention program that is free to members. New sessions are also planned at other nearby branches.
— Erica Moe, M.S., is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist who writes on behalf of the Mission Valley YMCA where she is fitness director.