Healthy diets, exercise help reduce diabetes

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Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not make enough insulin or is unable to use the insulin available to control blood glucose. The most common types are diabetes Type 1 and diabetes Type 2.

Diabetes Type 1 is characterized by insulin-producing cells within the pancreas being destroyed. People with Type 1 diabetes are dependent upon insulin injections or a pump to survive. There is no known way to prevent the development of diabetes Type 1, which develops more commonly in children but can develop at any age. It accounts for about 5 percent of cases of diabetes in adults in the United States.

Diabetes Type 2 is characterized by insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells and tissues in the body, primarily within muscle, fat and liver, do not use insulin properly. This form of diabetes is the most common and accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of diagnosed diabetes cases. Risk factors include aging, obesity, family history of diabetes, personal history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, race and ethnicity.

According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, diabetes affects about 29.1 million people in the U. S., or 9.3 percent of the population. Prediabetes affects an estimated 86 million Americans, or 37 percent of the population. More alarming, about 27.8 percent of people with diabetes are undiagnosed.

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower-limb amputations and new cases of blindness in the U. S. It is also a major cause of heart disease and stroke and the seventh leading cause of death in the U. S. The risk for death among people with diabetes is about twice that of people of similar age without diabetes. Diabetes is also costly, with approximately one in five health care dollars being spent on diabetes care.

Healthier diets include reducing carbohydrate and saturated fat content and including a wide variety of foods from different food groups. Try a few diet changes, such as using a luncheon-sized plate instead of a dinner-sized plate and filling half of the plate with vegetables, including green beans, lettuce, carrots, peppers, broccoli, spinach or other favorite “non-starchy” vegetables. A healthy form of protein, such as fish or poultry, about the size of a deck of cards, with meals is recommended. Including a half-cup of whole grains with meals three times per day and consuming two servings of fruit also contribute to a healthy diet.

Incorporating physical activity into daily routines is important. The American Diabetes Association recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week. One easy way to increase movement includes setting small goals using a step counter or a smart device to help track physical activity. Other methods include parking the car in a spot farthest from the building while shopping or using the stairs instead of an elevator. The Bismarck-Mandan area has nature trails and recreation facilities that can make physical activity and fitness fun.

Developing and maintaining positive lifestyle changes is paramount to not only preventing diabetes, but also improving health when living with diabetes.

(Sara Wiedrich and Ellen Doebler are diabetes management specialists at CHI St. Alexius Health Heart and Lung Clinic.)

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