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Take simple steps to prevent diabetes

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“My sugar is a little high.” “I have a touch of sugar diabetes.” These are things you might remember your parents or grandparents saying about a checkup with the doctor, but they are not words your physician will tell you today. Most of us know that diabetes is a chronic illness that affects the blood sugar and can be a very serious condition. What most of us don’t know is that diabetes is a major contributor to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputation.

The American Diabetes Association estimates that 17.9 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, 5.7 million Americans have diabetes but don’t know it, and 57 million Americans have pre-diabetes. The good news is that early detection, along with lifestyle changes, can prevent the consequences if you already have diabetes. Even better news is that you can prevent diabetes if you know you’re at risk, and take simple measures to improve your health now.

Do you have diabetes?

The only way to tell is to have your blood tested. A normal fasting blood sugar level is below 100mg/dl. If your fasting blood sugar is between 100 and 125 mg/dl, you have pre-diabetes. If your fasting blood sugar is 126 mg/dl or higher, you have diabetes. Your doctor might order an oral glucose tolerance test to see how your body controls your blood sugar when you eat.

Are you at risk for diabetes?

If your fasting blood sugar is in the normal range, you may still be at risk for diabetes. You can prevent the disease if you make healthy lifestyle changes now. If your answer is yes to any of the following questions, you may be at risk and need to talk to your healthcare provider about regular blood sugar screening.

  • Are you 45 years of age or older?
  • Do you have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes?
  • Are you African-American, Hispanic or Native American?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you get too little physical activity?
  • Do you have high blood pressure?
  • Do you have high cholesterol?
  • Did you have a baby that weighed 9 pounds or more at birth?

What can you do to prevent diabetes?

  • Increase your physical activity. Start slowly and increase your activity until you’re getting in at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. If you want to lose weight, increase your activity to 60 minutes five days a week.
  • Eat healthy. Don’t skip meals. Eat at least five servings of vegetables and fruits per day, and slowly increase your intake to between five and nine servings per day. Eat whole fruit instead of drinking juice. Eat whole grain foods and slowly increase your fiber intake to at least 20 grams per day.
  • Lose weight. Just lowering your weight by seven to ten percent can make a tremendous difference in your body’s ability to control your blood sugar.
  • Treat your high blood pressure. Limit your salt intake to no more than 2000 mg per day, and take medication consistently.
  • Treat high cholesterol. Increase your physical activity and decrease your saturated fat intake. If you need medication, take it regularly.
  • Manage your stress. Find ways to relax, and eliminate any stress that is unnecessary.
  • Get enough sleep. Some studies have connected poor sleep with diabetes. If you regularly have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, or if you snore, talk to your doctor about a sleep study.
  • Quit smoking. We all know how bad smoking is for our health, and people who smoke and have diabetes or pre-diabetes are at an even greater risk for heart disease, stroke and amputation.

November is National Diabetes Month. Take the time to find out what your fasting blood sugar numbers are, and talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors for diabetes. Portage Health offers classes for people with diabetes and pre-diabetes. Simple lifestyle changes can mean the difference in the quality of your health and life. Do it now.

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