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It’s hard to get away from sugar. We love it, it’s used as a sweetener in many of the foods we eat and the body needs it. Too much sugar in the blood, however, can lead to diabetes and from there it’s a fast trip to heart disease, stroke and other dangerous conditions. Not only does diabetes affect about 1 out of every 11 Americans, but a condition called prediabetes affects 1 out of 3 of us. And according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 15 – 30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years.
So what’s the answer? For many of us, diabetes can be delayed or even prevented through making a few simple lifestyle changes. How simple? Some changes in diet, some exercise, some loss of weight can delay or prevent the disease.
Types of Diabetes
There are two types of diabetes. With Type 1 diabetes, the body does not make any insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day. The more common version is Type 2 diabetes, in which the body does not make enough insulin or does not use it efficiently.
How does diabetes occur?
Our bodies turn most of the food we eat, into sugar – also called glucose – that is then used for energy. To move sugar through the body, we need a hormone called insulin, which is made in the pancreas. If the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, or if our bodies cannot use it for some reason, too much sugar builds up in the blood. The result is a build-up of fatty deposits that block our blood vessels, which can lead to stroke or heart attack.
In addition to Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, there is also a condition called prediabetes, in which the blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.Through a national study called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that “millions of high-risk people can delay or avoid developing type 2 diabetes by losing weight through regular physical activity and a diet low in fat calories.”
Delay and Prevention
While having a family history of diabetes is a major risk factor for the disease, other factors are in your control, such as being overweight, not eating well and not getting enough exercise. Those are all factors you can change if you have prediabetes. As the CDC says: Prediabetes = Pre(vent)diabetes. Here are some tips on how to start:
Healthy actions do add up! Delaying diabetes is the first step to prevention. At your next visit, talk with your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested and be sure that they know about any family history of diabetes.
Originally published April 19, 2017
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