By Elizabeth Findley-Knapp
JACKSON, MI – Diabetes case numbers continue to grow in the United States, but for many people the disease can be prevented or put under control.
People with diabetes have high blood sugar levels because their pancreases do not produce enough of the hormone insulin, or the insulin they produce is not effective. It is a chronic condition that can often be successfully fought by patients motivated to make healthy changes in their lives.
Type 2 diabetes is generally diagnosed in adults who are obese or who have a family history of the disease. For those patients, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to handle the amount of sugar in their systems.
Other risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include being physically inactive, high blood pressure, low levels of “good” cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides and more.
To assess your risk, you can go to the American Diabetes Association website for an online Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test. The test is at www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/diabetes-risk-test/ and it takes only about a minute.
Diabetes is diagnosed and monitored with a test for hemoglobin A1c, which indicates blood sugar levels over three months. Patients with A1c measured at 6.5 or above have diabetes, and patients in the 5.7 to 6.4 range have pre-diabetes, meaning they are at high risk of the disease.
Here is the good news: Patients can often cut their risk of diabetes by more than half.
Research shows we can lower our risk of Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent by doing two things – losing 7 percent of body weight and exercising moderately, such as taking a brisk walk, 150 minutes a week.
Seven percent of body weight is 15 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds. We’d all like to be at our ideal weight but losing just 5 to 10 pounds can make a huge difference.
Exercising for 150 minutes a week is 30 minutes five times a week, or 22 minutes every day. Any physical activity works, including chair exercises for people with limited mobility.
Patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes should keep a positive attitude and set realistic goals. Small steps in the right direction work better than drastic lifestyle changes because small steps can be sustained over time.
It is inspiring to see patients who stay motivated and control diabetes by bringing A1c levels down. Many people have done it, and you can too.
– Elizabeth Findley-Knapp is an adult nurse practitioner in family medicine at the Center for Family Health, 505 N. Jackson St. She is accredited by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.