Diabetes affects over 30 million Americans, of which almost 1 million are under 20 years old. According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017, the total direct and indirect medical costs of diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion dollars, and it was the seventh leading cause of death in 2015.
Think about your health care team. Even list them.
This year’s National Diabetes Month theme is You are the Center of Your Diabetes Care Team. So many of us forget that we are the center of our health team.
Statistics paint a pretty grim picture, with one in every 10 Americans dealing with diabetes. Don’t panic.
About 9 out of 10 cases of Type II diabetes are preventable. And, of those numbers I just mentioned, only 5% of the cases are Type I diabetes. This means, you are the center of your care team each and every day. And if you follow some basic exercise and nutrition tips, you can prevent Type II diabetes.
It’s important to understand the science behind diabetes. Our bodies need glucose (blood sugar) to function. Carbohydrates are broken down in the stomach to make glucose, which is absorbed in the bloodstream. Our bodies produce insulin in the pancreas. Insulin is like a gatekeeper. It unlocks the doors to the cells to let the sugar/glucose in so it can get burned up/metabolized for energy. People with diabetes either don’t make insulin (as in Type I diabetes), or are insulin resistant (Type II diabetes). People who no longer make insulin don’t have a gatekeeper to let the glucose in the cells. Those who develop insulin resistance have insulin that is unable to move the glucose into the cells. The glucose, then, gets stuck in the bloodstream, think of a traffic jam, and can, pretty much, wreak havoc on the body.
Too much glucose in your blood results in damage to the arteries in your heart, kidneys, and eyes resulting in heart attacks, end stage renal disease and blindness. It can also result in damage to the nerves in the hands and feet which results in pain and reduced function.
Again, don’t panic. Because with 4 simple steps, you can prevent insulin resistance. You are the center of your health care team. Here are some practical, easy-to-follow, incredibly doable things to prevent, or delay, diabetes:
- Take your plate seriously. Being intentional and mindful about what you eat, and the portions you eat, isn’t so hard. A quick cheat sheet to healthy eating is: fill ½ your plate with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of your plate with a protein (grilled chicken, fish, a meat substitute like beans or tofu), and the last ¼ of your plate with a starch/carb. High-fiber whole-grain carbs are a great option, like or barley and quinoa. And giving your diet an extra fiber boost is a great way to stave off diabetes. A high-fiber diet improves blood sugar control, lowers the risk of heart disease, and, because fiber makes you feel full, you may find yourself getting full sooner and eating less.
- Get moving! Scientists, explorers, and doctors have spent centuries looking for the magic elixir to make us younger. We’ve always had it. That fountain of youth happens to be exercise. Exercise is great for both mind and body. The more you move, and the sooner you begin to walk away from your problems, the healthier you’ll be. Cardiovascular health is great for both diabetes prevention and management.
- Be SMART: Make health and lifestyle goals Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Reasonable, and Time-Based). Specifically write out your exercise and nutrition goals. Instead of, “I will eat more vegetables,” write, “I will eat vegetables at lunch and vegetables with dinner.” The same goes for exercise.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Every little bit counts. Statistics show that by losing even 5 – 7% of your starting weight, and keeping it off, (yo-yo dieting is really hard on the body), can reduce the risk of prediabetes progressing to diabetes by 71%.
As daunting as the numbers are, we are the center of our health care teams. That begins with making small, however significant, lifestyle changes. Every bite counts. Every step counts. Every choice we make about the food we eat and how much we move will make us healthier and just might keep us diabetes-free.