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Diabetes: What is it and how can I Prevent it?

Unfortunately the prevalence of diabetes is growing in the US, 26 million people in the US have diabetes (8.3%) and of people over 65 years of age, 27% have diabetes. But what is it, can I prevent it and how can I manage it? Read below for answers to these questions.

What is it

Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels. There are 2 main types. Type 1 is the body’s inability to produce insulin. Type 1 is usually a result of a genetic disorder and onset is in childhood. Type 2 Diabetes is the body’s  resistance to its own insulin. This is the most common type and usually onset is in adulthood.

How Do You Know if You Have It

Diabetes is diagnosed by either blood sugar levels or A1C measurement. A blood sugar level over 200 mg/dL or AIC over 6.5% is indicative of a diagnosis of Diabetes. Other signs/symptoms that you may have Diabetes include frequent urination, extreme fatigue, blurry vision, slow healing cuts/bruises, or tingling or numbness in hands and/or feet.

Are There Complications?

Diabetes unfortunately puts you at much higher risk for a lot of serious disorders. Complications associated with Diabetes include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, neuropathy (tingling or pain into legs and arms) and lower leg amputation. These all sound pretty scary, and they are. But fortunately for many, diabetes symptoms can be well managed and possibly reversible. And in the case of Type II Diabetes it can be prevented.

Prevention and Management of Diabetes

  • Monitor Blood glucose levels. This test is done at your doctors visit. A normal A1C should be lower than 6.5%, and normal blood glucose level less than 140 mg/dL. If your levels are higher than this, talk to your doctor and read following recommendations to lower your blood sugar.
  • Maintain Healthy Weight: Losing 5-7% of body weight significantly reduces risk of diabetes onset or progression
  • Eat Healthy
    • Portion Control: One general rule you can try  is to keep each portion in a meal about the same size as a  deck of cards.
    • Avoid Excessive sugar intake (sugary beverages or sugar replacements).
    • Avoid Processed Foods (bacon, lunch meat/cold cuts)
  • Stay Physically Active: Being active will help you lose weight, and reduce risk of diabetes by improving insulin function and reducing blood glucose levels.
    • Consistency is more important than intensity. Long term benefits come from making exercise a daily part of your lifestyle. Recommendations for exercise frequency is around 3-5x/week.
    • Switch up your exercise routine. In general you should participate in aerobic exercise fore more than 20 minutes but this can include walking/biking/running/swimming. But also try something else, include weight training, yoga, or exercise classes.

If you don’t feel confident or safe starting an exercise program, stop by a trusted physical therapist. Know that there is a lot you can do to prevent and/or manage Diabetes. Starting now will help you on the track to a healthier you. For more detailed information check the American Diabetes Association website www.diabetes.org.

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