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Diabetes affects millions in U.S.

The other night while watching David Letterman, one of my favorite actors, Tom Hanks, shared his recent diagnoses of Type 2 diabetes.

I thought to myself, “How could someone this successful, smart and likely connected to the best doctors have Type 2 diabetes?” Listening to his story of yo-yo weight over the years, combined with a not-so-great diet, I was reminded that no one is immune from Type 2 diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, close to 26 million adults and children in the U.S live with Type 2 diabetes, 79 million people are pre-diabetic, while 7 million Americans are walking around with Type 2 diabetes and don’t even know it. With numbers like that, it’s clear that money and fame doesn’t exempt anyone from a disease that stems from lifestyle, and in some cases, genetics.

While I listened to Letterman and Hanks banter, Hanks mentioned that he has been struggling with his blood sugar since the age of 36. However, he made light of his recent diagnosis saying, “We’re all going to die of something, Dave.”

Personally, I think Hanks missed an opportunity to share the dangers of untreated Type 2 diabetes and what people can do to prevent his outcome. My hunch is he didn’t want to take away from promoting his new movie.

Since Hanks didn’t take advantage of educating viewers, who would likely listen to him more than their own doctors, I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity.

Untreated diabetes can cause a number of complications including cardiovascular diseases, eye damage, neuropathy (nerve damage), eye and foot damage and even death. Nerve damage creates poor blood flow, therefore a simple cut or blister can become a serious infection leading to amputations.

Type 2 diabetes is highly preventable. Type 2 diabetes is typically a byproduct of obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and a poor diet. While it’s possible a thin, athletic person could develop Type 2 diabetes (think Halle Berry) it would be considered unusual. For Berry, hers is most likely tied to genetics. Genetics aside, lifestyle is still a very important piece of the diabetes puzzle.

Prevention

Exercise ­— Whether you’re at risk of diabetes or not, everyone should exercise. Thanks to technology there is way too much sitting going on. People say they don’t have time to exercise, but they manage to find time to Facebook, Tweet and blog.

According to Harvard School of Public Health, “Every two hours you spend watching TV instead of pursuing something more active increases the chances of developing diabetes by 20 percent.”

Regular exercise improves blood glucose control and has a positive effect on blood fat and blood pressure levels. Further, exercise increases quality of life.

Improve your diet — This is not news but still people ignore the importance of what they eat and the impact that a poor diet can have on health. Following a diet that is low in saturated fat, high in fiber and complex carbohydrates plays a key role in reducing the risk of developing diabetes.

Additionally, when you follow a diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, you’re more likely to maintain a healthy weight. My advice is to stay completely away from any processed, high fat or high sugar foods. Reducing or even eliminating fast food is a great starting point.

Opt for whole fruits vs. fruit juice — Beverages high in sugar contain a high glycemic load, thus the more you drink, the greater your risk of developing diabetes. According to a study in the 2004 edition of JAMA, women who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day increased their risk of diabetes by 83 percent versus women who drank less than one sugar-sweetened beverage per month. You can’t go wrong with water.

Though there are many other ways to prevent Type 2 diabetes, the above suggestions are just that, simple ways to get started on the road to healthy living. Diabetes should not be taken lightly. Do your part to get active, improve your diet and maintain a healthy weight. Those are the best ways to not only prevent Type 2 diabetes, but to greatly enhance your quality of life.

For more information on Type 2 diabetes and prevention visit: www.diabetes.org

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