November is National Diabetes Month. Let’s take a moment to raise our awareness about diabetes and pre-diabetes and ways to continue living healthy.
Type 2 diabetes (adult onset) is a chronic disease that occurs when blood sugar is too high. It affects about 37 million Americans. Uncontrolled or poorly managed diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and other serious conditions. Type 2 diabetes is more common in Asians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and African Americans. Being overweight or obese also greatly increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Other risk factors include family history, blood lipid levels, age, and prediabetes status.
If you have type 2 diabetes, take steps to control your diabetes by improving your health as soon as possible.
Know your diabetes ABC’s:
• A is for the A1C test, which measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months. You want to make sure your blood glucose levels don’t get too high. The A1C goal for many people with diabetes is less than 7.
• B is for blood pressure. If blood pressure is too high, it causes the heart to work too hard. The blood pressure goal for most people with diabetes is less than 140/90.
• C is for cholesterol. There are two types of cholesterol: LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). High total cholesterol can lead to impaired glucose tolerance, and high HDL levels can further increase the risk of diabetes.
Learn how to live healthy with diabetes:
• Manage stress, as stress can raise blood sugar. Try taking deep breaths, going for a walk, meditating, or listening to your favorite music.
• Ask for help if you feel depressed. Reach out to a good friend or ask your health care provider for a referral to a mental health counselor or support group.
• Eat healthy. Choose foods low in calories, saturated fat, sugar and salt. Eat fiber-rich foods, include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and drink water instead of juice and soda.
• Be active. Set aside time to be active most days of the week for at least 30 minutes.
• Take diabetes medications as prescribed by your doctor.
• Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, red spots and swelling.
• Brush and floss your teeth every day to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy.
• Check blood sugar one or more times a day and blood pressure regularly.
• See your healthcare team at least twice a year, more often to treat problems early.
Prediabetes means that your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to diagnose diabetes. Nine out of 10 people don’t know they have prediabetes. It’s important to know if you have prediabetes so you can take steps to reverse it and avoid being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. You can take a simple test that only takes a minute or two to see if you’re at high risk for prediabetes: livinghealthy.hawaii. gov/prevent-diabetes-2/.
If your results indicate you may have prediabetes, it’s important to follow up with your doctor and take steps to reduce your risk. Prediabetes is reversible!
If your risk is low, great! Continue to maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, get plenty of sleep, cut back on alcohol and don’t use tobacco products. Eat healthy meals and snacks with fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins and whole foods. Keep processed foods, which are full of added sugar, salt and saturated fat, to a minimum.
Many organizations in Hawaii offer diabetes prevention programs, a lifestyle change program that teaches you how to live healthier and manage your weight so you can prevent diabetes. Without a lifestyle change program, 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes within five years, and 70 percent of prediabetics develop type 2 diabetes. You can find a program at your island here: livinghealthy.hawaii.gov/prevent-diabetes/find-a-cdc-approved-dpp/.
You can make small lifestyle changes to prevent diabetes. If you already have diabetes, you can learn simple skills to continue living healthy. For more information, visit the Hawaii Department of Health’s Prevent Diabetes Hawaii campaign: livinghealthy.hawaii.gov/prevent-diabetes-2/.
* Kristin Mills is a public health educator in the state Department of Health’s Maui District Health Office. No Ka Oi Health is published on the fourth Thursday of each month.
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