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Preventing Diabetes

Posted Jun 23 2010 12:00am

Diabetes currently affects almost 21 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Even more alarming is that the age of onset has dropped dramatically. It used to be that diabetes was primarily a “senior” disease, affecting those over age 45. Sadly, this is not the case any more.

There are two main types of diabetes: type I, which usually is diagnosed in childhood and requires insulin; and type II, which does not require insulin treatment but may require medication. Most cases (about 95 percent) are type II, which can be prevented in the overwhelming majority of cases with proper diet and exercise. What is particularly frightening is the rise in type II diabetes among children.

The effects of diabetes can be felt, literally, from head to toe, according to the CDC.

  • People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a stroke than those without the disease.
  • Poorly controlled blood sugar may lead to glaucoma and blindness.
  • Gum disease and high blood sugar are related.
  • Diabetes, particularly in conjunction with high cholesterol or high blood pressure, may lead to heart disease.
  • Kidney damage may result from diabetes, especially in combination with high blood pressure.
  • Diabetes has been linked to male sexual dysfunction (impotence).
  • Nerves in the feet may become damaged, sometimes leading to amputation.

Fortunately, there are much easier and less dangerous ways to not only control diabetes if you have it, but actually prevent getting it in the first place. Both the CDC and the National Institutes of Health agree that there are two basic elements to this: exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week; and eat foods low in fat and reduce total caloric intake. Pay attention not only to the types of food you eat, but also the portions. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the following:

  • Eat a variety of fruits (2 cups per day for a 2,000 calorie diet) instead of just juice. You can have these fresh, frozen, dried or canned. An example would be: one small banana, one large orange and ¼ cup of dried apricots or peaches.
  • Make your veggies more colorful by adding dark green (broccoli, kale, spinach) and bright orange (carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and other winter squashes). Also add more beans and peas to the mix (kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, lentils).
  • Eat more calcium for healthy bones. The USDA recommends three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk per day. You can substitute the same amount of low-fat yogurt and/or low-fat cheese (1 ½ ounces of cheese is equal to one cup of milk). Try lactose-free milk if you have trouble digesting dairy products.
  • Focus on whole grains. Make them at least half of your total grain intake. Try to eat at least 3 ounces of whole grains per day. This is equal to one slice of bread, 1 cup of breakfast cereal or ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta.
  • Go lean with the protein. Opt for lean meats such as chicken or fish. Be sure to prepare it in a healthy manner, such as baking or broiling. Don’t forget that nuts, beans and peas are also good sources of protein.

The point is that while it might seem that preventing a major disease such as diabetes is a daunting task, it actually isn’t. All it really takes is common sense, a bit of creative planning and a positive attitude. With these three things, you are well on your way to success.

- taken from Sweet Success, To Your Health March, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 03)

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