November is Diabetes Awareness Month: Playing defense against diabetes

by Teresa Myers, RN, CDE Diabetes Educator, Veterans Memorial Hospital

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Are you aware that the rate of diabetes has nearly doubled in the past ten years; that type 2 diabetes has even started showing up in teenagers; that 40% of those aged 40 to 70 have pre-diabetes; and most importantly, that diabetes and its complications can be almost totally avoidable?

A study released in September 2008 by the Center For Disease Control and the American Diabetes Association show that about 90% of the newly diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes are related to life style and eating habits.

“Weight is the strongest risk factor by far for diabetes,” says Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health. “Given that most people are not going to get down to an optimal weight, diet quality is almost as important as weight control. Exercise plays a major role in reducing these risks even further.”

Play a defensive role in reducing your risk for developing diabetes. Become the quarterback. Rely on your team: family and friends, your healthcare provider and the diabetes care team at Veterans Memorial Hospital to help you win the battle.

- Plan your strategy. Losing any excess weight, and keeping off unwanted pounds by eating a healthier diet is the best defense.
- Take a brisk walk daily, limit the time you spend sitting at work, at home, or in between. Try to get at least  four and a half hours of exercise or activity weekly.
- Avoid trans fats, which are in some french fries, pies, cake frostings, and other foods that are made with partially hydrogenated oils.
- Replace saturated fats (butter, cream etc.) with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (oils, nuts etc.).
- Replace or limit red meats, especially processed meats, with seafood, poultry, beans and soy foods.
- Replace refined grains and sweets with whole grains.
- Drink water instead of soft drinks, sports drinks and juice.
- If you drink coffee, tea or other caffeinated  beverages, drink them in moderation only (excessive caffeine raises blood glucose levels).
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Some wines are actually heart healthy. Small amounts of alcohol may help to lower blood glucose levels.

Diet and exercise factors become even more important if you have a close relative with diabetes but with good diet and lifestyle, you can still have a low risk. Contact the Diabetes Education Department at Veterans Memorial Hospital at 563-568-3411 to help you to be the successful quarterback and win the battle.

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