Although genetics, environmental factors and obesity all play a role, the root cause of diabetes is essentially unknown. What experts do know is that certain people are more at risk for diabetes, and personal health goals, regular screenings and guidance from health professionals can help you manage or prevent the disease.
Who is at the highest risk for diabetes?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) you have a greater risk for diabetes if:
* You have a family member with diabetes - a parent, brother or sister.
* Your heritage or family background is Alaska Native, American Indian, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American or Pacific Islander.
* You are a woman who has had gestational diabetes (high blood glucose during pregnancy) or who has given birth to at least one baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
* Your age is 60 or older.
Other risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, low HDL "good" cholesterol, a sedentary lifestyle, a history of cardiovascular disease or obesity.
The steps needed to manage or avoid diabetes
Maintaining a reasonable body weight is step one. To do this the NDIC suggests being physically active every day and making smart food choices.
Making smart food choices will help with other risk factors, for example:
* Reducing serving size of foods that are high in fat (e.g. meat and desserts) and increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables. This will help keep your weight and cholesterol (triglycerides) under control. The NDIC suggests limiting fat intake to 25 percent of your total calories. For example, a total of 56 grams of fat for a 2,000 calorie diet.
* Limit your sodium intake to 1 teaspoon of salt (2,300 mg) per day. This will help keep your blood pressure under control.
* If your doctor says it is OK to drink alcohol, limit your intake to one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men. This will help keep your weight and triglycerides under control.
Keeping a food and exercise log will help you stay on track with these lifestyle changes. In addition, get regular preventive screenings from a reliable health source, such as your doctor, Life Line Screening or even a corporate wellness program.
Preventive screenings serve as an additional indicator of potential risk or as a monitoring tool. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends this screening begin at age 45 and continue every three years.
Management prevents diabetes and more
While you work to maintain your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure, you are not only managing or preventing diabetes but you are also keeping yourself from a host of serious diseases that diabetes can cause. These include vision problems and blindness, kidney damage and failure, nerve damage, decreased blood flow to lower limbs, foot infections, skin infections, dental disease, heart disease and stroke.
Lifestyle changes can manage or prevent diabetes effectively
As proof, the Diabetes Prevention Program, a federally-funded research study, set out to discover whether lifestyle changes could prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. The study found that those people in a high risk group who lost a modest amount of weight through diet and exercise reduced their chances of developing diabetes by 58 percent. These findings are also reflected in recommendations from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for the prevention or delay of type 2 diabetes.
For organizations such as the NDIC, CDC, Life Line Screening, and the ADA, it is important to spread diabetes awareness so that everyone knows their risks as well as preventive measures that can be used to manage or avoid diabetes.