Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. People with dia-betes have problems converting food to energy. After a meal, food is broken down into a sugar called glucose, which is carried by the blood to cells throughout the body. Cells use the hormone insulin, made in the pancreas, to help them process blood glucose into energy.
The three main kinds of diabetes are type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes — Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes, is usually first diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults. In this form of diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas no longer make insulin because the body’s immune system has attacked and destroyed them.
Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes taking insulin shots or using an insulin pump, making wise food choices, exercising regularly, taking aspirin daily (for some), and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.
Type 2 Diabetes — Type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes. People can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. This form of diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which fat, muscle, and liver cells do not use insulin properly. At first, the pancreas keeps up with the added demand by producing more insulin. In time, however, it loses the ability to secrete enough insulin in response to meals. Being overweight and inactive increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Treatment includes taking diabetes medicines, making wise food choices, exercising regularly, taking aspirin daily, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.
Gestational Diabetes — Some women develop gestational diabetes during the late stages of pregnancy. Although this form of diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, a woman who has had it is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes is caused by the hormones of pregnancy or a shortage of insulin.
Many people have no signs or symptoms. Symptoms can also be so mild that you might not even notice them. More than five million people in the United States have type 2 diabetes and do not know it. Here is what to look for:
“Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. People with diabetes have problems converting food to energy.”
Sometimes people have symptoms but do not suspect diabetes. They delay scheduling a checkup because they do not feel sick. Many people do not find out they have the disease until they have diabetes complications, such as blurry vision or heart trouble. It is important to find out early if you have diabetes because treatment can prevent damage to the body from diabetes.
Should I Be Tested For Diabetes? Anyone 45 years old or older should consider get-ting tested for diabetes. If you are 45 or older and overweight, it is strongly recommended that you get tested. If you are younger than 45, overweight, and have one or more of the risk factors, you should consider testing. Ask your doctor for a fasting blood glucose test or an oral glucose tolerance test. Your doctor will tell you if you have normal blood glucose, pre-diabetes, or diabetes.
What Does It Mean To Have Pre-Diabetes? It means you are at risk for getting type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The good news is if you have pre-diabetes you can reduce the risk of getting diabetes and even return to normal blood glucose levels. With modest weight loss and moderate physical activity, you can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. If your blood glucose is higher than normal but lower than the diabetes range (what we now call pre-diabetes), have your blood glucose checked in 1 to 2 years.
Body Mass Index (BMI), is one of the best measures of our true weight status. Put simply, BMI is a common measure expressing the relationship of weight-to-height, and is an easy calculation using inches and pounds. When calculated, your BMI will help you determine your true weight status as either un-derweight, normal, overweight, or obese. These BMI ranges are based on the effect of weight status on disease and death. Generally, as a person’s BMI increases, so does their risk for a number of health conditions and diseases. These include the risk of premature death, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, cancer, and diabetes.
The BMI Chart found below (Chart 2) makes determining your BMI easy. Simply find your height and weight and circle the number where the two lines intersect. This is your BMI. Once you have determined your BMI, you can use this number to determine weight status (using Chart 1—underweight, normal, overweight, or obese). BMI values for adults are interpreted using a fixed number, regardless of age or sex, using the following guidelines:
Source: Adapted from Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults: The Evidence Report. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/bmi_tbl.pdf
To assess your general risk for type 2 diabetes, check each item that applies to you.
Believe it or not, you can do a lot to lower your chances of getting type 2 diabetes. Ex-ercising regularly, reducing fat and calorie intake, and losing weight can all help you reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels also help you stay healthy.
Although you can’t change some things like your family history and your ethnicity, you can change some personal health habits. Making these changes in your life can be hard, especially if you are faced with more than one change. You can make it easier by taking these steps:
Your doctor, a dietitian, or a counselor can help you develop a plan. In the next section we have highlighted some of the areas you may wish to change to reduce your risk of diabetes.
Your weight affects your health in many ways. Being overweight can keep your body from making and using insulin properly. It can also cause high blood pressure. Research has shown that losing even a few pounds can help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes because it helps your body use insulin more effectively. Moreover, people who lost between 5 and 7 percent of their body weight significantly reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, losing only 10 pounds could make a difference.
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body weight relative to height. You can use BMI to see whether you are underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. Use the BMI tables found in this publication to assess your BMI.
If you are overweight or obese, choose sensible ways to get in shape:
What you eat has a big impact on your health. By making wise food choices, you can help control your body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Regular exercise tackles several risk factors at once. It helps you lose weight, keeps your cholesterol and blood pressure under control, and helps your body use insulin. Research indicates that people who are physically active for 30 minutes a day 5 days a week reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes. Many chose brisk walking for exercise.
If you are not very active, you should start slowly, talking with your doctor first about what kinds of exercise would be safe for you.
Make a plan to increase your activity level toward the goal of being active at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
Choose activities you enjoy. Here are some ways to work extra activity into your daily routine:
Some people need medication to help control their blood pressure or cholesterol levels. If you do, take your medicines as directed.
We now know that many people can prevent type 2 diabetes through weight loss, regular exercise, and lowering their intake of fat and calories. Researchers are intensively studying the genetic and environmental factors that underlie the susceptibility to obesity, pre-diabetes, and diabetes. As they learn more about the molecular events that lead to diabetes, they will develop ways to prevent and cure the different stages of this disease. People with diabetes and those at risk for it now have easier access to clinical trials that test promising new approaches to treatment and prevention.
“Regular exercise tackles several risk factors at once. It helps you lose weight, keeps your cholesterol and blood pressure under control, and helps your body use insulin. Research indicates that people who are physically active for 30 minutes a day 5 days a week reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes. Many chose brisk walking for exercise.”
Take the first step today. If you’re overweight, you may be at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Talk to your health care provider today.
“Live long and live well.”
You don’t have to stop eating all your favorite foods in order to eat healthy. In fact, you can still enjoy ice cream or occasional fast food, as long as you control your portions and are physically active on most days of the week. Remember, like most things in life, the key to eating healthy is moderation.
So how much is too much? Well, serving sizes are designed to help you determine how much to eat at meals so you won’t over-indulge on some of your favorites. Check out the suggestions listed here to help you judge if you’re eating the right serving sizes. With the help of some visual aids, eating the right amounts won’t be such a challenge.
The following comparisons will help you estimate the right amount of food to eat in one sitting.
“You don’t have to stop eating all your favorite foods in order to eat healthy.”
Walking does wonders in helping to reduce the harmful effects of diabetes. But you have to leave time in your busy schedule to follow a walking program that will work for you. In planning your walking program, keep the following points in mind:
The more you walk, the better you will feel. You also will use more calories.
Answer the following questions before you begin a walking program.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, please check with your health care provider before starting a walking program or other form of physical activity.
The information found in this booklet was gathered from a publication developed by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. This pamphlet was originally developed by the NIH (Publication No. 04–4805). The information is in the public domain and may be used and reprinted without permission.
Additional information was taken from WELCOA’s line of Health and Wellness brochures. All information has been reviewed for accuracy. This information is not intended to replace the advice of your health care provider. If you have any questions about managing your own health and/or seeking medical care, please contact a medical professional.
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