One in five healthcare dollars is spent on diabetes.
Besides being concerned about heart health during the winter holidays, November begins American Diabetes Month. Why be concerned? The cost statistic cited above, and more than 29 million Americans have diabetes, and 86 million Americans are at risk to develop type 2 diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is the term for the condition arising when the body has difficulty processing or producing insulin, a hormone that helps the body break down and use glucose.
Type 1 diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, entails the body not producing any insulin. People with type 1 account for only 5 percent of all people who have diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin, and it can no longer regulate blood sugar properly. This is the most common form of diabetes.
Straight from the American Diabetes Association Fact Sheet:
- Diabetes nearly doubles the risk for heart attack and for death from heart disease.
- Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.
- Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among working-age adults.
- The rate of amputation for people with diabetes is 10 times higher than for people without diabetes.
- Roughly 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that could result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and other nerve problems.
Who’s at Risk?
People who are overweight, have high blood pressure, or are age 45 or older, are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
What Can You Do?
Lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle.
Diabetes is often worsened by sedentary, Standard American Diet (SAD), high-stress lifestyles. But wait! How you live your life is all in your control. “Mind over matter” may sound like wishful thinking, but how do those French fries get in your mouth if you’re not controlling your hands, at some level?
From the tiniest changes of parking further away and taking the stairs, to incorporating one green smoothie a day and making an effort to get to sleep earlier, you can adjust your lifestyle. Seek the support of a health coach (recommended: RN clinical disease management coach) to guide you through the process of making sustainable, health-supporting lifestyle changes. Many health care carriers offer disease management or at least telephonic health coaching; contact your HR department or insurance broker to learn more.
Watch your weight: If you’re overweight or obese, seek support to make a healthy lifestyle change.
Eat healthy. Seek out a nutritionist or registered dietitian to help you plan healthy meals that won’t spike your blood sugar.
Get more physical activity. This recommendation’s free: consult the Internet! The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)and NIH (National Institutes of Health) are good places to begin learning about how exercise will help you with recommendation #1. Then YouTube has a plethora of varying levels, durations, and types of exercise videos. Taking the dog for a longer walk or figuring out where you can fit extra steps into your day (stairs instead of elevator, walk or ride a bicycle to a store instead of driving) are also excellent habits to build.
While no one wants to add to the worries and stress the end of the year brings, seeing family and partying is also a good time to think about your health risks and managing current conditions. Diabetes doesn’t have to be a slow, drawn-out death sentence with proper knowledge, prevention, and management.