It’s Diabetes Awareness Month. Wear something blue, the International Diabetes Federation reminds us. It is the color of “the blue circle of diabetes” that represents our awareness of diabetes around the globe.
“Diabetes mellitus” means “sweet urine” — the symptom by which it was originally diagnosed. (Really.) Today, diabetes can be diagnosed with a simple blood test that shows abnormally high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood.
People with type 1 diabetes totally lack insulin — the hormone that controls glucose in our blood and helps deliver it to our cells to give us energy. People with type 2 diabetes produce insulin, but the body does not use it effectively.
How does diabetes happen? Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are linked to our genes in some way, say experts. And when genetic tendencies (family history) meet certain “triggers” in the environment, diabetes happens.
In the case of type 1 diabetes, these specific triggers have not been totally identified. In type 2 diabetes, “genetics loads the gun and lifestyle pulls the trigger,” experts often say.
And diabetes is nothing to ignore. Diabetes and its complications are the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to recent statistics. Excess sugar (glucose) in the blood can injure the heart, kidney, eyes, and every nerve in the body.
Any good news? We can’t choose our parents, but in the case of type 2 diabetes, we can choose how to live our lives in a way that can prevent or delay the onset of this disease. Here are the recommendations from experts around the world:
Get tested. Especially if you have a family history of diabetes, say experts. And if you are overweight or carry excess weight around your middle. A blood test can identify diabetes or if you are on your way to getting it.
How much is “excess” weight around the middle? A “waist circumference” for men greater than 40 inches and for women greater than 35 inches is linked to “insulin resistance” — a step on the way to diabetes.
Oh, and the correct way to measure the waist, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse? Just above the hipbone (belly button level) after we have exhaled.
Get regular physical activity. Exercise may be the most potent anti-diabetes “drug” on the market. Landmark studies have shown that 30 minutes a day five days a week or at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week is extremely effective to help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
Drop a few pounds. Even modest weight loss (5 to 10 percent) can head off the march to diabetes — even in people predisposed to the disease, say experts.
Clean up your plate. Cut back on “SoFAS”—-a new term for “Solid Fats and Added Sugars.” These are the food components highly linked to our worldwide epidemic of diabetes, say experts.
“Solid” fats are high in “saturated” fat and can be identified on food labels. High-fat meats and cheese are high in saturated fat, for example. “Added sugars” are most often found in sweetened beverages and most every holiday goodie. And lest we become depressed, “moderate” or “minimal” intake of these foods is the key, say nutrition experts.