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Recognizing November as National Diabetes month

Posted 11/29/2012   Updated 11/29/2012 Email story   Print story


by Florence Cruz
66th Medical Squadron

11/29/2012 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Although November is coming to a close, it is important to remember that the month was recognized as National Diabetes Awareness month. The vision of the American Diabetes Association is a life free of diabetes and all of its burdens.

Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes, and recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless steps are taken to stop diabetes. Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $174 billion and further published studies suggest that when additional costs for gestational diabetes, prediabetes and undiagnosed diabetes are included, the total diabetes-related costs in the U.S. could exceed $218 billion. The cost of caring for someone with diabetes is $1 out of every $5 in total healthcare costs.

People are at an increased risk for diabetes if they are overweight, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American or Pacific Islander or have a parent, brother or sister who has diabetes. Other factors that can increase the likelihood are for people that had a baby weighing more than nine pounds at birth or had gestational diabetes and if they have high blood pressure or low HDL (good cholesterol) or high triglycerides

Some startling statistics show that two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke and it is the leading cause of kidney failure and of new cases of blindness among adults. The rate of amputation for people with diabetes is 10 times higher than for people without, and approximately 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that could result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and other nerve problems.

A few common symptoms of diabetes are frequent urination, extreme thirst, blurred vision, fatigue, always hungry, sudden unintentional weight loss, numbness and tingling in hands or feet and sexual dysfunction.

Diabetes is a serious disease and if it is not managed, it can damage many parts of the body, leading to heart attacks, strokes, amputation, blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage. But there is good news. Diabetes complications can be prevented or delayed by properly managing blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Eating healthy, being physically active and quitting smoking can also help lower the risk of diabetes complications.

There are some ways to control or prevent diabetes and it is important to increase knowledge and awareness. People can attend classes, meet with one of the clinic's disease management nurses or visit www.diabetes.org.

People can improve their diet by increasing their dietary fiber to 25 to 30 grams per day. Females should aim for no more than 45 grams of carbohydrates per meal and males should aim for no more than 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal. Fat intake should be limited to less than 25 to 35 percent of their total calories each day and saturated fat intake limited to less than seven percent of total daily calories.

Exercise should not be overlooked as an important factor when it comes to diabetes. People should conduct at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity per week to maintain weight and 300 minutes per week if weight loss is desired. Generally, five to seven percent weight loss can significantly improve glycemic control. People should include strengthening and flexibility to their routine and exercise program but always check with their healthcare provider before starting an exercise program. Shortness of breath or chest discomfort associated with exercise should be reported immediately.

For prevention and follow-up, it is important to keep recommended appointments with primary care managers and specialists. People also need to keep sugars, blood pressure, cholesterol and weight within recommended goals.

An important tool is to meet with educators and a dietitian to help with therapeutic lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise and weight loss. If on medication, it is important to take them as prescribed and people should get recommended eye exams, lab-work and vaccines, if indicated. For anyone that is prediabetic, it is possible to reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent.

The next diabetes/prediabetes class will be held at the Hanscom clinic on Dec. 12 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Seating is limited to enrolled patients only. To register for the class or to make appointment with the disease management nurse, call 781-225-6789.

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