Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles. Compared to the general population, African Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes:
- 3.7 million, or 14.7% of all African Americans aged 20 years or older have diabetes.
- Twenty-five percent of African Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have diabetes.
- One in four African American women over 55 years of age has diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar (glucose), starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin, or the cells ignore the insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy. When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause two problems:
- Right away, your cells may be starved for energy.
- Over time, high blood glucose levels may hurt your eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.
How to Prevent or Delay Diabetes
Pre-diabetes is a serious medical condition that can be treated. The good news is that the recently completed Diabetes Prevention Program study conclusively showed that people with pre-diabetes can prevent the development of type 2 diabetes by making changes in their diet and increasing their level of physical activity. They may even be able to return their blood glucose levels to the normal range.
1. Make Healthy Food Choices
Knowing what to eat can be confusing. Everywhere you turn, there is news about what is or isn’t good for you. Some basic principles have weathered the fad diets, and have stood the test of time. Here are a few tips on making healthful food choices for you and your entire family.
- Eat lots of vegetables and fruits. Try picking from the rainbow of colors available to maximize variety. Eat non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, carrots, broccoli or green beans with meals.
- Choose whole grain foods over processed grain products. Try brown rice with your stir fry or whole wheat spaghetti with your favorite pasta sauce.
- Include dried beans (like kidney or pinto beans) and lentils into your meals.
- Include fish in your meals 2-3 times a week.
- Choose lean meats like cuts of beef and pork that end in “loin” such as pork loin and sirloin. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
- Choose non-fat dairy such as skim milk, non-fat yogurt and non-fat cheese.
- Choose water and calorie-free “diet” drinks instead of regular soda, fruit punch, sweet tea and other sugar-sweetened drinks.
- Choose liquid oils for cooking instead of solid fats that can be high in saturated and trans fats. Remember that fats are high in calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, watch your portion sizes of added fats.
- Cut back on high calorie snack foods and desserts like chips, cookies, cakes, and full-fat ice cream.
- Eating too much of even healthful foods can lead to weight gain. Watch your portion sizes.
2. Be Active Throughout the Day
In addition to a formal exercise routine that includes Aerobic Exercise, Strength Training, and Flexibility Exercises, there are many opportunities to be active throughout the day. These strategies can help you increase your activity level:
- Walk instead of drive whenever possible
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Work in the garden, rake leaves, or do some housecleaning every day
- Park at the far end of the shopping center lot and walk to the store
Information provided by American Diabetes Association and used with permission. For more information on diabetes and other complications, visit www.Diabetes.org.