Diabetes Awareness Month

Diabetes Awareness Month

Happy Fall, ya’ll….I mean yinz! It seems that autumn is finally upon us here in Pittsburgh, if the recent gray skies and rainy weather is any confirmation. I don’t know about you, but this gloomy atmosphere has us looking forward to the upcoming holiday season and all the delicious fixings that are sure to abound! I’m sure you already have your Thanksgiving plans in place; have decided who is hosting the festivities and what recipe you may be cooking. From there, it is right into the holly jolly time of holiday parties, potlucks, cookie exchanges, you name it. It may be no mistake, then, that the US Department of Health and Human Services has chosen the month of November as National Diabetes month. Now, this is by no means is meant to bring the holiday spirit to a screeching halt. It’s not to say that you can’t have that piece of grandma’s pumpkin pie, or turn on the Christmas music and bake up that new cookie recipe you found on Pinterest. It can just be a little reminder we place in the back of our heads for the rest of this month, and into the next, that these goodies come steeped in tradition but also come along with great impact on our health.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, over 30 million people in the US (9% of the population!) are living with diabetes, and 1 in 4 people with diabetes don’t even know they have it. Even more alarming is the fact that over 84 million people over the age of 18 have prediabetes, which is a condition that greatly increases an individual’s chance of developing diabetes, and marked by several factors, which could include: physical inactivity, having a family member who has been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels outside healthy ranges, or a history a cardiovascular disease, among others.

Diabetes is so common that I’m sure we all have someone in our lives living with and managing this disease. To give a generalized background of diabetes, this diagnosis indicates that the affected individual’s body is not making the correct amount of insulin that is needed to regulate their blood sugar level. With Type 1 diabetes, the body is not able to make insulin, so routine injections are needed. This type typically develops in childhood and the onset is quite rapid. With Type 2 diabetes, the body is making insulin, just not enough to control blood sugar levels.  This type typically develops in adulthood, and onsets much more gradually, generally due to lifestyle choices. Gestational diabetes develops when a woman is pregnant and typically goes away after delivery, but puts both the mother and baby at a greater risk for developing another type of diabetes throughout their lifetimes.

Diabetes is an epidemic that has implications in many aspects of our life. Aside from the immediate health concerns, a diabetes diagnosis correlates to increased risk of other chronic disease throughout one’s lifetime. One of the concerns that affects every one of us, regardless of diagnosis or not, is the rising health care costs that come along with the increasing rates of disease.  These rates can be a burden to us all.  We are the richest, yet the sickest nation in the world.  Healthcare expenditures are approaching more than $3 trillion per year, and on average,  more than $10, 000 per person (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  

It should come as no surprise to any of us that the two best tools at our disposal to prevent diabetes are a healthy diet and active lifestyle. We can see this as a great source of relief, because these two things are aspects of our lives over which we have complete and total control. In fact, the US Department of Health and Human Services outlines that people can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes by losing even just a modest amount of weight through diet and exercise, reducing their risk for the disease by over 50%.  Additionally, these two tools (healthy diet and active lifestyle) are also crucial to a management plan if an individual has been diagnosed with diabetes as well.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics set three goals for managing diabetes once an individual has been diagnosed. While being treated by a doctor individuals should:

1.  Strive to keep their blood glucose levels within the ranges advised to them. 

ResultFasting Plasma Glucose (FPG)
Normalless than 100 mg/dl
Prediabetes100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl
Diabetes126 mg/dl or higher

2.  Keep blood pressure and cholesterol within established healthy ranges

ResultBlood Pressure
Normalbelow 120/80
Pre-hypertensionbetween 120-139/80-89
HypertensionStage 1

Stage 2

between 140-159/90-99

160 or higher/100 or higher

Total Cholesterolless than 200 mg/dl
LDLHDLless than 100 mg/dlgreater than 50 mg/dl
Triglyceridesless than 150 mg/dl

3.  Adopt a healthy lifestyle that feels right, and more importantly, doable, to  them. 

Let’s get to the point. Being that this is a nutrition website, we can provide some guidance for maintaining a diet that is consistent with prevention and management of diabetes. Please note that while generalizations can be made, it is important to develop an individualized plan to achieve your best results. The recommended diet achieves a balanced of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and low fat dairy products, with a good balance of foods from each.  Most importantly, nonstarchy vegetables should comprise half of the plate at each meal. Particular foods to avoid include fried foods, foods high in salt, sweets, and sweetened drinks. It is a common misconception that all starchy foods have to be avoided entirely, but it is important to consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist to determine what amounts and types should be included in an individual’s plan.

In honor of National Diabetes Month, I hope this information has raised awareness to your own risks, and also what you can do for your health. Do you think you may be at risk for prediabetes or diabetes? Have you been diagnosed with diabetes and would like support in adopting or maintaining a healthy lifestyle? We would love to help and have several resources available to you. Please check out our website and contact us so we can get started helping you be an active participant in your health…TODAY!

**Enjoy this healthy, wholesome recipe to boost your intake of Omega-3 fats,  reduce inflammation, and help prevent or manage diabetes:

Salmon with Rosemary and Basil

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