November is National Diabetes Month, and University of Illinois Extension wants area residents to focus on how they can prevent, or properly manage, this disease.
"About 1 in 4 adults are overweight or obese in DuPage and Kane counties, and in Kendall County, the number increases to more than 1 in 3 adults, according to the latest statistics," said Laura Barr, University of Illinois Extension Educator who serves the tri-county area. "Research indicates human obesity contributes to increased risk of heart disease, some cancers and diabetes."
In 2016, the Illinois Department of Health reported more than 1.34 million people in Illinois have diabetes, and an estimated 341,000 have the disease, but do not know it yet.
Left untreated, diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, and amputation of toes, feet, or legs.
Onset is highest between the ages of 45 and 64, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Barr adds that you are at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes if you check off two or more of the following factors:
• Overweight or obese;
• Family history of heart disease, diabetes or stroke;
• High blood pressure;
• Physically active less than three times per week;
• African, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or Hispanic/Latino origins.
"People of Mexican decent specifically have a greater risk, according to research," Barr said. "The Hispanic Community Health Study determined they have the highest risk factor, 18.3 percent, of developing diabetes compared to other groups of Hispanic or Latino heritage."
The prevalence, she added, rises considerably with age and also can increase with the length of time lived in the United States. Inversely, people of Hispanic or Latino decent are less likely to develop diabetes the more education and income they reported, according to the survey.
In any case, to help prevent Type 2 diabetes, start with these three steps:
1. If you smoke, stop.
2. Get an average of 150 minutes of physical activity weekly.
3. Adjust your eating habits -- increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, switch to whole grains, and avoid highly processed foods.
"If you are overweight, losing 7 to 10 percent of body weight can decrease risk by 50 percent," said Barr. "The best way to do that is to eat healthy and exercise regularly."
If you have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Barr recommends you:
• Work with a health care team to get a personal plan to address diabetes.
• Check blood glucose as advised.
• Take medications or insulin in a timely fashion.
• Follow a prescribed diet and do not skip meals.
"Making changes to how we eat can be difficult," said Barr. "After being diagnosed with diabetes, health education is needed to understand the food relationship to blood sugar or serum glucose."
U of I Extension collaborates with local park districts, senior centers, health care facilities and other organizations to offer two diabetes program options to the community.
"I on Diabetes" and "Vivir Bien con Diabetes" are both educational series designed for patients, caregivers or those interested in preventing or managing diabetes. Each provides research-based information to help participants understand the disease and the nutrition connection.
"The goal of each is to increase awareness, emphasize the need for a health care team and improve diabetic care and overall well-being," said Barr. "The programs are meant to compliment the recommendations of your health care provider and to help you or your loved one manage diabetes."
Participants can increase their knowledge about meal and snack planning, eating out, reading food labels, using artificial sweeteners and low-fat products, and seasoning with herbs and spices, which are all excellent tools for self-management. Plus, there are hands-on activities or cooking demonstrations, food tastings and more.
For more information on University of Illinois Extension programs, visit go.illinois.edu/extensiondkk or contact (630) 584-6166.