When talking about diabetes, the word 'epidemic' seems to be used more often than not. It's a great attention getter. Epidemic brings to mind movie-esque scenarios with CDC tents and hazmat suits. But really, diabetes, in its most prevalent form (type 2/adult onset), is a serious disease we can do something about. What's required of us is simply knowledge and dedication to our health.
So let's start learning...
What Should We Know?
Just in the US population:
- 8.3% of children and adults are diabetic = 285 million people.
- The US has the 3rd largest number of confirmed cases in the world.
- The other countries with high statistics are generally those with lower income and fewer health care options.
- An estimated 7 million people are undiagnosed diabetics.
- These numbers increase by 8% each year.
- The CDC predicts 1/3 of adults will have diabetes by 2050.
- The estimated annual burden diabetes places on the US economy is $245 billion.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect the glucose levels in your blood. If you are diabetic, your glucose or blood sugar is too high. Too much glucose can lead to potentially serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system damage and lower limb amputation.
What Should We Do?
Now that you know the basics, what we can do is pay attention to our health, and the health of those we care for.
Diabetes can be prevented, controlled and even reversed with active dedication. It's all about daily efforts and small consistent changes.
Developing a daily, health conscious routine doesn't mean that everything has to change all at once. Just the reality of diabetes or prediabetes being a problem is incredibly overwhelming. Dropping everything, clearing out your fridge and running 5 miles a day on top of that, is too much. Stress is also a factor in blood sugar, and a drastic change is always stressful. So take it one step at a time.
- Understand what's happening to your body and why. Not everyone is the same, diabetes can be a result of a variety of causes including genetics, lifestyle choices and eating habits. Knowing how you got there, will reduce the stress of dealing with the disease, and help show you the path toward controlling and reversing its effects.
- Talk to your doctors, and find a dietician. You don't have to deal with this alone. Discussing a long term plan with professional guidance and establishing accountability with someone other than yourself can go a long way.
- Test often and keep track. The only way you will know if the changes you make are working, is to closely monitor how your glucose level reacts to them. Not every body is the same, and testing often and keeping track will help you fine tune your future decisions.
- Look at your diet and the diet of those around you (especially in your home). Start avoiding excess sugars, salts (preservatives), carbohydrates, fats and cholesterol. Switch to water or unsweetened teas.
- If counting ounces and percentages down to the last detail stresses you out, the best thing you can do is start eating fresh. Fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, unseasoned, fresh lean meats, all of which will ad to your fiber and protein intake. A lot of people don't realize that frozen foods last that long because they are loaded with salt and other preservatives that have a negative impact on your body's chemistry.
- Changing your eating habits is much easier if those around you are doing the same thing. No junk in the freezer means you won't have anything tempting to give in to.
- Start moving around. If walking is all you can handle, three ten minute walks a day is a great place to start changing your health. Here are 10 Activities That Don't Feel Like a Workout to get you started. Even if you don't have to lose weight, the exercise alone will lower your blood sugar and increase energy. A pedometer or mobile fitness app are fantastic motivators. Check out some great ones in our article 10 Fitness Apps You Can't Miss.
Use the infographic below to remind you how serious and great the risk of diabetes is for us all, and look for upcoming articles for more specific information and advice on preventing, controlling and reversing the diabetes epidemic that affects us.