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For the past 46 years, every November has been designated National Diabetes Month. This year’s theme is prediabetes and the prevention of the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines prediabetes as a serious health condition where a person’s blood sugar (BG or glucose) levels are elevated but not enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
In the United States, 34. 2 million or just over 1 in 10 adults have diabetes. In addition, more than 1 in 3 or 88 million adults have elevated glucose levels or hyperglycemia. However, the majority do not know they are borderline diabetics.
Perhaps, the reason for not knowing is that diabetes symptoms can be mild and not easily detected. However, if someone experiences increased thirst, increased hunger, excessive fatigue, increased nocturnal urination, and blurry vision, they should see a doctor.
Diabetes may be part of a person’s DNA. Some people are born with the predisposition to develop diabetes. Not only can hyperglycemia run in families, but it affects racial and ethnic minorities at a higher rate than non-Hispanic whites.
The Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is building relationships with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and other organizations to help people prevent and treat diabetes and to address the disparity in how seriously it affects minority groups in particular.
A combination of risk factors in Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Asian individuals can be problematic. For example, they lack access to health care, their socioeconomic standing, cultural attitudes, geographic barriers, lack of access to healthy fresh foods, and behaviors can be obstacles to preventing diabetes. Another concern is the lack of effective management once a diagnosis of diabetes is made.
Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes: A Dangerous Epidemic
A person diagnosed with prediabetes should learn about the disease. The first thing to understand is a defect in a person’s body causes diabetes. The defect changes “the body’s ability to produce or use insulin — a hormone released into the blood to control glucose levels and the amount of glucose transported into cells as an energy source, according to the FDA.
Hyperglycemia can lead to serious health problems. Some of the most common medical conditions are cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney disease, vessel damage, nerve damage, stroke, and amputation.
Prediabetes is reversible, and type 2 diabetes can go into remission. These goals are achievable with the help of a strong support team that includes family, friends, and a health care team. In addition, many communities have diabetes prevention programs where people struggling to take control of the disease can support one another.
Lifestyle Changes Needed to Reverse Prediabetes
If a person makes a few lifestyle changes, they can prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes and possibly reverse the prediabetes diagnosis.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reminds everyone that changing their lifestyle can be challenging. However, do not try to change everything at once and remember that setbacks are normal. Recognizing the difficulty and getting back on track is the key to successfully dealing with this disease.
Moving more is an excellent way to start. Health professionals recommend people begin by limiting the amount of time sitting and doing some kind of physical activity five days a week for at least 30 minutes a day. These can be short walks or bodyweight exercises, such as pushups, arm circles, stair-stepping, and rowing. If disabled, consider chair aerobics. Experts also suggest breaking up routines throughout the day with the goal of becoming more active.
Next, choose healthier beverages and foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar and fats. Balance each meal with fresh vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein. However, if cost is a barrier or finding fresh vegetables is impossible, steaming frozen vegetables is a sound substitute.
Beans are high in carbohydrates and fiber. Another carbohydrate group that works well to keep prediabetes blood sugar levels under control contains whole grains, pasta, brown rice, and oats. Instead of sugary beverages, drink water.
Creating and keeping a journal or calendar with goals is helpful, especially when making lifestyle changes. In addition, having notes about any symptoms or recent life changes to share with a doctor will assist them with making a diagnosis and creating a management plan. Finally, healthcare specialists suggest prediabetic and diabetic patients ask questions and discuss their concerns.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
FDA: Fighting Diabetes’ Deadly Impact on Minorities
Healthline: Everything You Need to Know About Diabetes; by Stephanie Watson and Medically reviewed by Marina Basina, M.D.
International Diabetes Foundation: About Diabetes
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