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American Diabetes Association Alert Day!
Time to Sound the alarm about the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes

Tuesday, March 26th is American Diabetes Association Alert day. Each year, the fourth Tuesday in March is set aside to encourage Americans to pay better attention to their lifestyle choices and how they affect your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes awareness is even more critical now since over 29 million Americans have diabetes and one in three Americans are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, a serious disease that can lead to complications such as kidney disease, stroke, blindness, and amputations. But Type 2 diabetes doesn’t have to be permanent–it can be prevented, delayed or reversed with healthy lifestyle choices.

What is Diabetes?
When you eat, your body turns food into sugars, most specifically glucose. At that point, your pancreas is supposed to release insulin. Insulin serves as a key to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter — and allow those cells to use the glucose for energy. In those with Type 2 diabetes, cells become insulin resistant and don’t use insulin and glucose properly. At first, your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep the cells well fed. So the cells starve and the blood sugar rises. Both are bad.

Although we can’t change certain risk factors such as family history, the good news is we can change lifestyle risk factors around eating, physical activity, and weight. Researchers don’t fully understand why some people develop pre-diabetes and others don’t. It’s clear that certain factors increase the risk, however, including:

  • Weight. The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin.
  • Family history.  Type 2 diabetes is believed to have a strong genetic link, meaning that if a parent or sibling has it, your risk for developing diabetes increases.
  • Age. Your risk increases as you get older. This may be because we tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as we age. Type 2 diabetes is also increasing among children, adolescents and younger adults, mostly associated with being overweight.
  • High blood pressure. Hypertension and diabetes generally coexist because they share similar risk factors, including being overweight, following an unhealthy diet, and living an inactive lifestyle.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Researchers have found a clear connection between inactivity weight gain and the development to developing Type 2 diabetes.  
  • Broken beta cells. If the cells in the pancreas that make the insulin send out the wrong amount of insulin at the wrong time, your blood sugar gets thrown off. High blood glucose can damage these cells, too.
  • Acanthosis nigricans: This is a condition in which the skin around your neck, armpits, or groin looks dark, thick, and velvety. Acanthosis nigricans is a physical sign associated with insulin resistance.

Usual interventions for Type 2 diabetes includes monitoring your blood sugar levels and using oral medications or injected insulin. But lifestyle changes at home can make the biggest difference, both in preventing and treating Type 2 diabetes.

1. Shed the weight. Dropping just 7% to 10% of your weight can cut your risk of Type 2 diabetes in half.

2. Get active.  Each day should contain some form of physical activity. Staying active is crucial and moving muscles uses glucose. Thirty minutes of brisk walking a day will cut your risk by almost a third.

3. Eat right. Avoid highly processed carbs, sugary drinks, and trans and saturated fats. Limit red and processed meats.

4. Quit smoking. Work with your doctor to avoid gaining weight, so you don’t create one problem by solving another.

9 out of 10 Americans most at risk for Type 2 diabetes don’t know it. That’s why on March 26th the American Diabetes Association encourages everyone to take 60 seconds to find out if you’re one of them by taking the Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test. Knowing your risk factors is the first step toward a healthier life.