According to the American Diabetes Association, 1 in every 400 children and adolescents have diabetes, with 25.6 million people aged 20 or over living with diabetes! In the age group of 65 and older 10.9 million people are affected by diabetes. Yes, it’s true, diabetes has become a national epidemic. Surprisingly, there are an estimated 7 million people that have diabetes and don’t know it, and an astonishing 79 million people have prediabetes – meaning if they continue living the way they do, they will most likely be living with the disease in the future, due to blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.
What can we do to stop this in America? The first step to prevention and elimination is education, to learn exactly what the signs and symptoms are, and knowing what to do if you are experiencing the warning signs. Remember, you don’t have to be elderly to be a candidate for diabetes.
What exactly is Diabetes? According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body's ability to produce and/or use insulin. Glucose then backs up in the bloodstream — causing one’s blood glucose to rise too high. So who gets diabetes and who is at risk? Anyone can have diabetes! Research shows that those who are over 40 and overweight (BMI >25) are more likely to develop diabetes, although the incidence of type 2 diabetes in adolescents is growing. Diabetes is more common among Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans (www.joslin.org).
What are the signs? Early warning signs of being diabetic are excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision, tingling in the hands and feet, gum disease, bladder infections, wounds that won’t heal, and fatigue. These are due to the body’s inability to move sugar into the fat, liver, and muscle cells to be stored for energy (pubmedhealth.com). If one does not pay close attention to the early signs these can lead to long-term complications such as; heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, nerve damage, blindness, and even amputation.
So, what can you do? Though you have no control over your age or ethnicity, you do have the choice of how to treat your body everyday. You have the choice of whether to put a double cheeseburger in your mouth or a healthy chicken salad. Lifestyle changes such as better carbohydrates (ie: limit white carbs), calorie-controlled meal plans, losing some weight (if necessary), and fitting regular physical activity (30 minutes or more 5 days a week) into your schedule can prevent you from becoming one of the 25.6 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes or one of the 79 million diagnosed with prediabetes. Limit your risk and take control now! If you have any of the symptoms described above, consult your doctor right away. Remember, early detection can make the difference in your life.
For further information please visit www.diabetes.org or the American Diabetes Association.
Shawn Perotti is a certified personal trainer at Gainey Village Health Club. He possesses three Bachelor of Science degrees in Exercise Physiology, Nutrition and Nursing as well as 4 certifications in training (ISSA, ACE, RTS, NASM).