Diabetes Alert: Are You at Risk?

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Do you know how many Americans are currently walking around with undiagnosed diabetes? A staggering 5.4 million!!

American Diabetes Alert is an annual public-awareness campaign held the fourth Tuesday in March. This alert is a one-day call to action to encourage the public to take a simple one-page test to determine their risk for diabetes.

Diabetes is a serious disease. Sixteen million Americans have diabetes, and there are 798,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. It is also the leading cause of blindness and kidney disease and the most frequent cause of lower leg amputations. Also, people who have diabetes have a much greater risk of developing heart disease.

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1, which usually occurs during childhood or adolescence, and type 2, the most common form of the disease, usually occurring after age 45.

The risk of developing diabetes increases as you get older, or if you gain too much weight, or if you do not stay active. Diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders. Risk factors for diabetes include:

• Having high blood pressure.
• Having a family history of diabetes.
• Having diabetes during pregnancy.
• Having a baby weighing more than nine pounds at birth.

You can have diabetes for years and not know it. During this time, harm to your eyes, nerves, and kidneys may have been going on for as long as seven to ten years. Most people with diabetes do not notice any symptoms. Sometimes people don’t know they have diabetes until they are diagnosed with one of its life-threatening consequences.

The most common symptoms of diabetes are:
• Being very thirsty.
• Urinating often.
• Losing weight without trying.
These symptoms occur when the energy from the food you eat cannot get into the cells to nourish them.

To lower your risk of diabetes:
• Keep your weight under control.
• Stay active most days of the week.
• Eat low-fat meals that are high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods.

The goal of the American Diabetes Alert is to call attention to the following facts:
• Diabetes is serious.
• You can have diabetes and not know it.
• Taking the diabetes risk test is an easy way to find out if you are at risk for diabetes. The test is available online at www.diabetes.org. Click on Basic Diabetes Information and then on Risk Factors for an online quiz.

What can I do to lower my risk for diabetes?
While there are some risk factors you cannot change, there are many you can. Here is the best advice to lower your risk for getting type 2 diabetes. These strategies will help you reduce insulin resistance:
1) Exercise regularly
2) Lose excess body fat
3) Eat a high-fiber, whole-food diet that is low in fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates
Here are important strategies to help you control your weight and blood sugar if you already have type 2 diabetes:
1) Exercise regularly
2) Lose excess body fat
3) Eat a high-fiber, whole food diet that is low in fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates
4) Limit foods that are high in saturated fat and hydrogenated fat
5) Eat a low-salt diet, especially if your blood pressure is high
These tips are excerpted from Diet & Type 2 Diabetes. FMI, see www.foodandhealth.com.
By Beth Fontenot, MS, LDN, RD.

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