Take action to prevent diabetes

Diabetes is a health concern for many in our community – particularly Hispanics and African-Americans who are diagnosed with this disease more often compared to other ethnic groups.

More than 14% of Bexar County residents have diabetes, according to the Metropolitan Health District report Diabetes in Bexar County – 2014. This percentage is higher than the state average of 10.6% and considerably higher than the national average of 9.3%. In 2012, the average incidence of diabetes in Bexar County was 11.4%, in 2012 it increased to 12.7%, and it continues to rise.

What happens to your body when you get diabetes?

When you become diabetic, your body has an inability to rid your system of too much blood sugar. Diabetes can prevent your blood vessels from working properly, cause vision loss, damage to your kidneys and nervous system. It often increases your risk for heart attack, stroke and other health problems.

The Metropolitan Health District also reports that the number of amputations in Bexar County due to diabetes has increased dramatically compared to previous years. In 2012 there were 1,758 amputations, and in 2014 there were 1,909. It’s a serious disease with serious complications.

The report addresses national concerns as well, estimating that up to three times as many Americans will be diagnosed with diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue.

The cause of diabetes

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin. It’s not understood exactly why this happens. It has been determined that being overweight coupled with a lack of physical activity can be contributing factors. Genetics can also play a role.

Type 1 diabetes, a condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas, is believed to be caused by genetics and environmental factors, such as viruses.

Most people don’t realize they’re prediabetic

“Right now there are about 90 million people in the U.S. that are prediabetic, and more than two thirds of those patients don’t even realize they have this condition,” said Dr. Alberto Chavez-Velazquez, a University Health System endocrinologist and diabetes specialist at the Texas Diabetes Institute. “In many cases, damage to the kidneys, pancreas and heart, among other organs, has already begun. Just because they can’t feel it – doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

Some indicators of prediabetes

•  Weight gain around the stomach
•  Sleepiness after a meal
•  Lack of energy or constantly feeling tired
•  Excessive thirst
•  Frequent urination, especially at night

How to prevent diabetes

The American Diabetes Association recommends prediabetics take action to avoid developing type 2 diabetes. They encourage high-risk individuals to lose weight through regular exercise and a low-fat, low-caloric diet.

As you become more active your cells become more sensitive to insulin and your body starts to work more efficiently. You don’t have to jump into an intensive exercise routine overnight. Get active. Start with realistic goals and consult with your doctor to help you get on the right track. Create a new, healthy routine you can maintain.

Defend against getting type 2 diabetes

•  Check glucose levels frequently
•  Eat healthy, moderate portions
•  Exercise at least 150 minutes per week (start walking and eventually aim for walking 30 minutes a day)
•  Establish good sleeping habits
•  Lose weight the healthy way (just 5-7 percent of your body weight may reduce your risk by 50%)
•  Don’t be lured by lose-weight-fast diets

According to the ADA, everyone responds differently to different types of food. There isn’t one specific diet that works for everyone. They emphasize that getting medical nutrition therapy is fundamental for those who are prediabetic or diabetic. This type of therapy should not be a one-time thing; it should be continually updated and reassessed on a regular basis as your health circumstances change.

To learn how to cook healthy, sign up for cooking classes at the Texas Diabetes Institute. Registered dieticians talk about how to make nutritional meals that taste good. It’s not hard to do. It’s a fun way to get healthy and meet other people in the community who have similar interests and health concerns.

For a small $5 fee, you get a cooking lesson, recipes you can take home and food samples. These healthy cooking classes are good for people who have prediabetes or diabetes. These classes are not just for people who are managing diabetes; they’re for anyone who simply wants to learn how to live a healthier lifestyle.