By Kelly Ostrem
This Thanksgiving, as you break bread with family and friends, talk about your health. November is diabetes awareness month, and knowing if you are at risk for diabetes can be a major step in slowing or preventing its onset.
Diabetes is a disease that develops when the body cannot properly process glucose, or sugars that are used for energy by the body. There are currently 29.1 million people with diabetes in the United States. Statistics show that one in three adults will get diabetes in their lifetime.
When diabetes isn’t managed well, it can lead to devastating health problems such as blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, strokes, or amputations of the toes, feet or legs. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., and it’s nothing that you want your loved ones to face.
So as you pass the turkey, find out if you’re related to someone who has diabetes. Knowing your family history is crucial to helping you take a proactive approach to your own health.
Other common risk factors for diabetes are obesity, physical inactivity, a prior history of gestational diabetes (developing diabetes while pregnant), your ethnicity and age.
Type 2 diabetes makes up about 90 – 95 percent of all cases of diabetes. It can develop at any age, but it’s highly preventable. Type 2 diabetes is often called insulin-resistance because the body doesn’t allow glucose or sugar to enter cells to be used or stored as energy.
This leads to higher glucose levels in the blood. High blood sugar, whether at levels high enough for diabetes or not, can be dangerous. So get the conversation going and know if you are at risk for developing diabetes.
There are 86 million adults that have prediabetes, a precursor to diabetes that is indicated by higher than normal levels of blood sugar. Nine out of 10 of these prediabetics don’t even know that they’re at risk.
The good news is that by finding out if you are at risk and making some lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine, you can work on lowering your blood sugar levels and ultimately prevent this disease.
Lately, they’ve discovered that exercise is really crucial to preventing diabetes as well as managing diabetes for those who are diagnosed with it. Exercise helps the body’s cells respond to insulin, which Type 2 diabetics struggle with, and makes it easier for the body to respond to insulin and get the glucose into the cells and out of the bloodstream.
So find an exercise program you can stick with. Get moving 3 – 7 days each week. There are diabetes prevention programs available across the country. The Mission Valley YMCA has many classes and activities to keep you active. They also have trainers skilled at working with diabetic clients.
If you are at risk for prediabetes or diabetes, talk to your doctor. Losing weight, eating healthy and exercising regularly can help too. Ultimately, take care of your health because diabetes is a big issue. And have a conversation with your friends and family this November. Learn your risk. You could have an impact in your own life — or the life of someone you love.
—Kelly Ostrem is a certified Health Fitness Specialist and a Certified Health Education Specialist. She writes on behalf of the Mission Valley YMCA.