Claudann Jones

Each year, 1.4 million people are diagnosed with diabetes. This totals out to 30.3 million U.S. citizens currently affected by the disease with 1 out of 4 not even realizing that they have it. November is National Diabetes Month, and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offers some insight into what diabetes is and how to lower your risk of getting it by living a healthier lifestyle.

Diabetes is diagnosed when higher than normal levels of glucose is circulating in the blood, according to Dr. Sumathi Venkatesh, Extension program specialist with Healthy South Texas. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, develops from the body’s inability to produce or use insulin correctly. On the other hand, Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction, making it impossible for the body to create any insulin at all, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes is preventable. Unfortunately, symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are often discrete, making it hard to diagnose the disease. The CDC recommends getting your blood sugar tested if you believe you are at risk for the disease. Those at higher risk typically fall under these categories:

• Overweight or obese

• 45 years or older

• Have a parent or sibling with Type 2 diabetes

• Physically active less than three times a week

• Had gestational diabetes or given birth to a baby that weighed more than nine pounds

• African American, Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native

Managing eating habits and living a healthy lifestyle not only aid in the prevention of diabetes, but can also help those who currently suffer from the disease. According to Venkatesh, effective diabetes self-management includes healthy eating, regular exercise, weight management, tobacco cessation, monitoring blood glucose, medication adherence and getting support. The Harvard School of Public Healthy recommends following these key steps when it comes to diabetes self-management and prevention:

• Control your weight: being overweight makes you 7 times more likely to develop diabetes than someone with a healthy weight.

• Get moving: working your muscles more often improves their ability to use insulin and absorb glucose.

• Tune up your diet:

— Choose whole grains over highly processed carbohydrates.

— Skip the sugary drinks and choose water, coffee or tea instead.

— Choose good fats instead of bad fats. Bad fats include polyunsaturated fats found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.

— Limit red meat and avoid processed meat; choose nuts, whole grains, poultry or fish instead.

— If you smoke, try to quit; smokers are 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers.

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