How will you stop diabetes? The future is in your hands. This is the question asked by the American Diabetes Association and rock star Brett Michaels along with other celebrities with diabetes as we celebrate November—National Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in the United States is Diabetes, affecting more than 24 million Americans. Many people don’t even know they have it. November is an important time to raise awareness about this disease and also how to manage it through healthful eating.
Diabetes is a condition that affects the way the body uses energy in food—mainly carbohydrates and sugars. People who have diabetes have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels. Common symptoms of diabetes include fatigue, increased thirst and urination, infections and cuts that don’t heal, blurred vision, hunger and weight loss. A simple urine test is used to detect diabetes. If positive, blood glucose readings are taken to measure blood sugar levels. Everyone age 45 and over should have a blood glucose test every three years.
Type I and Type II diabetes are quite different. Without getting into all of the medical differences, Type I is often diagnosed at a young age and is insulin dependent and Type II is often diagnosed at an older age and related to obesity. However, we are seeing more and more young people who are overweight with Type II diabetes. Type II can often be controlled with diet and exercise alone. Sometimes it can even be reversed with weight loss.
Most people with diabetes can lead an active lifestyle if managed with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and regulating medication. Those with poorly managed diabetes are at larger risk for stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, and even more serious issues like blindness or amputation. Unfortunately we are seeing more and more young people with poorly managed diabetes. The University of Idaho has received a large grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a unique approach to managing and educating young adults with diabetes using the social network Second Life. We hope our research will make an impact.
In the mean time, if you have diabetes, here are some diet tips for November:
- Test more often this month. Just one more test a day might give you a better picture of your blood sugar control.
- Size up your sweetners by checking out this comparison of sugar substitutes: http://forecast.diabetes.org/magazine/food-thought/size-your-sweetener-options
- Manage how you eat, refuel with foods frequently, incorporate physical activity into your daily routine and control your weight. If you need help developing a plan that works for you, contact a registered dietitian.
I was talking to a young college student with Type I Diabetes a few days ago, whose comment I will never forget. He said that he wished he had Type II Diabetes instead of Type I, because there was so much more he could do to prevent it in the first place.