Two weeks ago, my father was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, and told that if he did not change his ways, he would most definitely develop diabetes in the near future. It came as a shock for all of us, as my dad is still somewhat active, body surfing every summer, and he is not terribly overweight.
The International Diabetes Federation reported last week that 1 in 10 people worldwide will have diabetes by 2035, which equates to about 592 million people. Currently, they are projecting that 382 million people will have diabetes by the end of this year, and 5.1 million reported deaths are a result of diabetes in 2013 alone. These numbers reflect both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, although the number of people with type 2 is increasing at an astronomical rate in every country around the world, and accounts for 90% of all cases of diabetes. Sadly, the 80% of people with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries. Instead of the numbers going down with increased awareness and education about diet and exercise in the U.S., the disease is progressing at an alarming rate regarding Type 2.
Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity or being overweight, but as evidenced by my dad, that’s not always the case. Type 2 often times can be managed with modifications and adjustments to diet and exercise routines, but for most people, their diabetes will eventually require oral medication and/or insulin treatments. Which is exactly why my father’s doctor is so eager to be proactive and cut this off at the pass because once a person is officially diagnosed with Type 2, it will often lead to a life of modifications and treatments.
So, what can you do to help yourself or a family member not become another statistic?
Take stock of your lifestyle and take a proactive stance.
Are you overweight, or carry a large amount of weight in your abdominal area? Are you physically active?
Maintaining a healthy body weight is important in improving insulin resistance and reduces the risk of hypertension.
Physical activity is one of the biggest ways to prevent diabetes, so finding a sport or form of physical exercise that you enjoy is crucial. As is the case with my dad, it’s not always about how much you weigh but how active you are. Turns out that his body boarding sessions in the summer aren’t enough anymore to fend off health concerns; it’s about being consistently active throughout the week, month and year.
A balanced diet low in fats and sugar is also crucial in diabetes prevention, as well as cardiovascular health.
What if you’ve already been diagnosed?
Get out and move! In addition to helping you lose or maintain your weight, exercising lowers blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity.
Ditch cigarettes if you’re a smoker. Smoking and diabetes both narrow blood vessels and will lead to even higher risks of cardiovascular disease.
Adjust your diet to include more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fiber. Limit your intake of cheese and red meat and other animal products, and control your intake of carbohydrates.
Take your medication as prescribed, and treat this as the serious disease that it is. There are no mild cases of diabetes, and those with diabetes are 2 to 4 times as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as those without diabetes. While adjustments to lifestyle are important, medication may need to be taken, including statins, which help to lower cholesterol.
Be your own healthcare advocate, asking questions and pushing back when need be. Diabetes affects and manifests itself differently in every individual. While one meal may drastically affect one person’s insulin levels, it may have no dramatic affect on another diabetic. Not one size fits all with medications either. Because diabetics have an increased risk of heart disease and often experience high levels of cholesterol, a statin may be prescribed to help lower cholesterol levels, however, statins may negatively affect some individuals. My dad recently had to get off his prescribed statin because they found it was actually causing higher sugar levels, which turns out is quite common with this particular medication. So do your own research when possible, and question treatment when necessary.
With thoughtful treatment and lifestyle adjustments, it is possible to take control of diabetes, and avoid becoming another statistic. I feel fortunate that my father’s insurance program takes a very proactive approach to health care and is providing educational classes free of charge, to inform him and others how to eat better, and live a healthier, fuller life overall. My father’s a very stubborn man and he and I actually got into quite an argument over his diagnosis, when I made some suggestions to him. After his class though, he had learned a ton of information that truly benefited him, and he is now approaching the subject, and my advice with a whole new set of eyes.
Diabetes cost over $500 billion in health expenses in 2013, and will only increase if it progresses at the predicted rate. By taking charge of our own health and welfare, and by insurance companies and medical professionals taking a more proactive and preventative approach, we can decrease the number of future cases of diabetes, so that the predicted statistic never comes to fruition.
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