Preventing and Managing Diabetes
Each November, the American Diabetes Association sponsors American Diabetes Month, which is designed to raise awareness about the prevalence of diabetes in our country as well as the health complications and other issues surrounding the disease.
According to a long-term study released in 2014 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9.6% of adults who are 18 or older have been diagnosed with diabetes in California. The CDC estimates that 9.3% of the United States population overall (29 million people) have diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes. Even more staggering is that an estimated 86 million U.S. adults have prediabetes, a condition that puts individuals at an increased risk for developing health issues such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
Furthermore, in 2013, diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death among Americans, and the disease defies demographics. All individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, or socioeconomic status, can end up with this disease. Compounding the problem in America is our increased lack of physical activity, rising obesity rates, and poor lifestyle decisions as a society. With so many people who are affected and who are at risk, preventing and managing diabetes are issues that individuals in the United States should be taking seriously.
Diet and Nutrition
If you are lucky enough to be free of diabetes, the most important thing you can do is keep yourself that way, especially if you have a family history that places you at a higher risk. There are also positive lifestyle changes you can make to help mitigate the symptoms of diabetes. For example, the focus for American Diabetes Month in 2015 is “Eat Well America!” which encourages healthy and nutritious food choices that are also tasty and delicious.
Eating well means retaining the joy in your meals; being nutritious doesn’t automatically cancel out being delicious. Making smart decisions about your food is one of the ways to keep your weight in check. Because obesity is a major risk factor for developing diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight for your body type is important. Meritage Medical Network offers wellness classes about nutrition for children and adults as well as individual nutrition counseling sessions for diabetic patients to help you with your goals.
Focus on Prevention: Exercise and Physical Activity
Staying physically active is another way to prevent a diabetes diagnosis or to help manage the symptoms if you already have diabetes. With our busy schedules and fast-paced lives, finding the time for exercise can be difficult. After a long day of work, most of us would rather relax or spend time with our families than jump on the treadmill.
However, staying physically active doesn’t always mean you have to get a shiny new gym membership or spend hours and hours working out. After all, you don’t have to become a triathlete to get in shape! If you’re looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle that helps prevent several diabetes risk factors – namely obesity – there are simple measures you can take to add more physical activity to your day:
- Try to park a little further away from the entrance to your destination to get in a few extra steps.
- Do some work outside the house; raking, tending a garden, and mowing the lawn with a push mower are all great ways to stay active and increase flexibility.
- Don’t just let your pet outside when they need to do their business; take them for a brisk walk or a trip to the dog park to play fetch.
- Make exercise a social activity: instead of going to a movie with popcorn, candy, and soda, go to the mall with a friend and do some window shopping while you walk the concourse.
- Join an intramural sport league; flag football, softball, and basketball are all high-intensity sports that can keep you physically fit, but even participating in a golf or bowling league will greatly increase your weekly exercise.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to follow your doctor’s directions and self-monitor your condition. Monitor your blood sugar levels, take your medications as prescribed, maintain your appointments for regular check-ups, alter your diet, and take extra steps to stay active. These measures will help prevent you from developing some of the severe complications that can arise as a result of having diabetes.
Even though November is American Diabetes Month, your health and wellness should be important priorities throughout the year. Meritage Medical Network is your go-to healthcare network in Marin, Napa, and Sonoma Counties. Our physician members and our medical and administrative staff are here to help make sure you receive the highest quality health care available to prevent diabetes and to stay well if you have already been diagnosed!