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Joy Johnson shows people in the healthy living program how to make a smoothie at the NET Health Center for Healthy Living in Tyler, Texas.

Smart planning can help people prevent developing or better control Type 2 Diabetes.

“One of the first things in preventing diabetes is to know your numbers,” said Joy Johnson, assistant director of community outreach for Tyler-based NET-Health, the regional public health organization, and program manager of the free Diabetes Education Program.

A medical checkup should include blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, which are all key in watching for diabetes, she said. A checkup with the doctor also will allow for the person to get a flu shot, she said. Preventing the flu is important for people who have diabetes or prediabetes.

“When a person gets sick their blood sugars fluctuate a lot and it could go high like a blood sugar coma,” she said. “Others may be too low and that is not always recognizable at first. Flu can make it go up or down.”

Besides going to the doctor, people who are worried about diabetes should plan for a healthier journey for the new year. Perhaps people already followed good behavior during the holidays and selected their indulgences such as one piece of pie or one alcoholic beverage. A good rule of thumb is to allow yourself something you are really craving at times, she said.

“If you go into it with the mentality that we will be denied then we want it even more and there is more of a chance of overindulging,” Johnson said.

Staying on a regulated diet and exercise program is an important way to avoid diabetes and manage it, she said. More than 90 percent of Type 2 Diabetes has to do with genetic components and lifestyle factors such as eating unhealthy foods and not getting adequate exercise.

According to the American Diabetes Association there is a diabetes epidemic in Texas with approximately 2.5 million people, or 14.2 of the adult population, with diabetes. In Smith County, that percentage is 11.8 percent.

Of the 2.5 million in Texas, 663,000 have diabetes but do not know it, greatly increasing their health risk. In addition, 6.9 million people in Texas, 37 percent of the adult population, have prediabetes with blood glucose levels higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Every year an estimated 182,000 people in Texas are diagnosed with diabetes.

But diabetes does not have to be a diagnosis for everyone. For example, a person diagnosed as prediabetic has blood sugar that is higher than normal.

“Say you don’t have it — there is a time to change, you can get it reversed,” she said. “Five percent in weight loss can be significant.”

For example, if a person weighs 200 pounds, a five percent weight loss is 10 pounds. That number can lower blood sugar and help prevent developing diabetes, she said.

For people who already have diabetes it is important to stay on top of the newest information about the disease, Johnson said.

“Educate, educate, educate yourself,” she said. “If you have attended a diabetes class and it has been a year or two, go. People should go whether it has been a year or two or if they have been diagnosed for 10 or 15 years. Keep afresh and know exactly what the steps are to help yourself. Go to the American Diabetes Website and get some information. Some things can change. Go to class and monitor your blood sugar regularly.”

To schedule for a free blood pressure screening, blood glucose screening, cholesterol screening or BMI assessment at NET Health, call (903) 535-0030.

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