Plan meals, activity to reduce diabetes risk

Diabetes is a major cause of disability and death in the U.S., causing kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage and other health problems and the statistics are stunning.

More than 30 million Americans, or one in 10 of us, have diabetes and nearly 85 million adults are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

November is American Diabetes Month which aims to bring awareness of the disease's prevalence in the United States and offers steps to prevent and manage it before it develops into a more serious condition.

Rosario Garcia, a Registered Nurse and certified diabetes educator at AMITA Health, hopes the national effort will not only shine a light on the millions of people in the U.S. who have diabetes but also the 7.2 million who do not even know they have it.

"We know that the earlier it is identified, the easier it is to manage," Garcia explained, "and free glucose screenings are available at Prairie Stone Sports & Wellness Center in Hoffman Estates and Campanelli YMCA in Schaumburg." At Prairie Stone, tests will be given 8-11 a.m. on Nov. 7 and 14. At Campanelli YMCA, tests will be given 8-11 a.m. on Nov. 14 and 21.

Garcia cautions that many people can have diabetes and not have any symptoms.

"Common symptoms are excessive thirst, excessive eating and/or frequent urination. Some people may experience unintentional weight loss and complain of being very tired." She stresses that diabetes can be identified before any of these symptoms occur by seeing your doctor and getting blood work done.

There's also prediabetes, a stage before diabetes develops. Prediabetes is identified when your fasting blood glucose is 100 or more but less than 126.

"In prediabetes blood sugars are above normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes," Garcia explained. "When people make lifestyle modifications such as healthier food choices and increasing physical activity, they can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 58%! The research shows that when people lose 7% of their body weight and exercise 150 minutes a week it may improve their blood glucose and decrease or delay the development of type 2 diabetes."

There's good news: Making small changes such as reducing intake of sweetened beverages, increasing vegetable consumption and watching portion sizes can all help.

Garcia suggests planning weekly meals, eating at home more often and picking healthy snacks like fruit, plain nuts, low fat cheese and yogurt. "If you're overweight, work on losing 5-7% of your body weight and increasing activity especially if you have a sedentary job. Start small. Walk 5-10 minute intervals and work your way up to the recommended 150 minutes a week. Include weight-bearing exercise such as resistance bands or light weights a few times per week," she said.

Don't fret if you can't afford a gym membership, either. Use water bottles or soup cans as light weights, put on some music and dance and just use the stairs more often.

"Get a clearance from your doctor to exercise and work within your limitations and if you are at risk of diabetes, you may qualify to participate in a diabetes prevention program held at Elgin's Taylor Family YMCA, a program that includes an exercise component." For more information or to register for the program, call (224) 760-7022.

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