Diabetes is a real, dangerous disease of the vessels. Left uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to renal disease, loss of vision, amputation of limbs and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
"The truth is, diabetes contributes to more deaths per year than AIDS and breast cancer combined," says Debra Nessel, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. "Two out of three people with diabetes die of heart disease or stroke."
Diabetes refers to a group of diseases, all involving high blood glucose levels and other secondary symptoms. Type 1 diabetes is considered an auto-immune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin (the hormone that helps deliver the energy from food to your body's cells). Treatment for Type 1 diabetes includes daily insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes tends to be genetically linked with increased risk in obese individuals and is often diagnosed in adulthood, although a growing number of young adults now have the disease. As the rate of obesity increases globally, so does the occurrence of diabetes and all of the health threats that go along with it.
The good news is that lifestyle changes can help manage and reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. This involves more than just eating fewer sweets (a common misconception). In fact, prevention is a multi-faceted lifestyle change that combines improved eating habits with regular exercise. Type 2 diabetes is commonly triggered by over-consumption of calories and a lack of exercise.
Nessel suggests the following five tips to curb your risk of diabetes.
1. REDUCE YOUR INTAKE OF SATURATED FAT.
There are two basic types of fats found in food: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats from animal- and man-made trans fats can increase your blood cholesterol and therefore increase your risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats may help decrease your blood cholesterol, but both types offer concentrated calories, so portion control is the key to a healthy plan.
2. REDUCE YOUR SODIUM INTAKE.
Cut back on the salt! Instead, liven up your meals with fresh herbs from the farmer's market, such as basil, cilantro, oregano and thyme. Limit sodium to 2,000 mg to 2,300 mg daily. Read the label of foods you eat. One teaspoon of salt is equal to 2,400 mg of sodium.
3. COOK FROM SCRATCH TO REDUCE FAT, SODIUM AND CALORIES.
This includes buying fresh grains, fruits and vegetables and preparing them at home. Bake, broil, grill or steam meats, chicken, fish and vegetables, as an alternative to frying.
4. EXERCISE ONCE A DAY.
Exercise is a key component to preventing and managing Type 2 diabetes. Exercise can lower blood glucose levels, improve insulin sensitivity and strengthen the heart. Now that summer is here, take your family for a nightly walk or jump on your bikes and head down the Strand. It will be bonding time as well as prevention. Remember to check with your doctor before starting a demanding exercise program.
5. ADD HIGH-FIBER SELECTIONS TO YOUR DIET.
Fiber helps to keep you feeling full longer. High-fiber foods include whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Fill half your plate with non-starchy, high-fiber fruits and vegetables such as salad, green beans, spinach, onion, tomato, cucumber, pepper, radish, cauliflower, broccoli, melon and berries.