Creasy: Take measures to prevent diabetes

November 20, 2013 

We often think of cancer, heart disease and stroke as the leading causes of death in the United States and throughout the world. Did you know that diabetes is also one of the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide?

According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people throughout the world have diabetes. At least 703,289 of those individuals are our friends, relatives and neighbors here in Georgia. Based on the 2012 Georgia Diabetes Burden Report, more than 400,000 Georgians are undiagnosed diabetics.

Although these statistics may seem disheartening, we can all take action to help stop diabetes by spreading the word about diabetes prevention, detection and management during American Diabetes Month this November and throughout the entire year.

There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease characterized by a complete lack of insulin production. It is typically diagnosed in children and young adults but can occur at any age. The pancreas of a person with Type 1 diabetes cannot make insulin; therefore, the individual must take insulin via a syringe or pump. Currently, there is no cure for this type of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance, meaning that a person’s body is less sensitive to insulin and cannot effectively use insulin to take glucose into the body’s cells. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in older adults; however, childhood obesity and inactive lifestyles have resulted in increasing numbers of Type 2 diabetes diagnoses in children.

If you or someone you know has Type 2 diabetes, your health care provider may recommend a combination of treatment options including diet modification, physical activity, oral medications and/or injectable medications.

Gestational diabetes is the third type of diabetes and occurs only in pregnant women. This form of diabetes is caused by insulin resistance brought on by the hormones of pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes may manage the disease with diet and physical activity or may need insulin or oral medication. Those who have had gestational diabetes are at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life unless lifestyle factors, such as diet and physical activity, are modified to manage body weight and health status.

If diabetes is caught early, many of the complications, such as neuropathy and heart disease can be prevented or delayed. Warning signs of diabetes include:

• frequent urination

• extreme fatigue

• rapid weight loss, even though you are not reducing food intake

• tingling, pain or numbness in your hands and feet

• frequent feelings of thirst and/or hunger

• blurry vision

• bruises or cuts that heal slowly

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, make an appointment immediately with a health care provider to have your blood glucose level tested.

Healthy individuals or those with pre-diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes by following these tips:

• Be physically active. Just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days per week can keep your body healthy. Moderate activity means that you can talk but cannot sing while taking part in walking, dancing or any other activity you enjoy.

• Eat a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, nuts, lean meats or meat substitutes and legumes.

• Manage your body weight by balancing food intake with physical activity. In the Diabetes Prevention Program research study, participants with pre-diabetes who lost 7 percent of their body weight while performing 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days per week reduced their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.

Remember, you can help stop diabetes by raising awareness of the different types of diabetes, warning signs and prevention strategies during American Diabetes Month and throughout the entire year.

Rebecca Creasy is the Houston County Extension agent for food and nutrition and family and consumer sciences. Contact her at 478-987-2028 or beccac@uga.edu.

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