Wednesday, 22 May 2019

PRACTICALLY ACTIVE: Prevention is the focus of Diabetes Month

I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.

— Voltaire

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Sometimes, when I hear about “awareness” months I wonder, “Aren’t we aware of it already?”

I hearken back to the old G.I. Joe public service announcement that said, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.”

Knowledge and awareness go hand in hand. But if you are anything like me, you may not actually use that awareness to stay on the straight and narrow when it comes to diabetes. Sometimes I’m on the straight, but mostly I seem to be on the narrow.

According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 30 million Americans have diabetes and some 84 million are prediabetic. Unless they make necessary changes, 15 percent to 30 percent of prediabetics will develop Type 2 within about five years.

One of the statistics I read in a U.S. News & World Report article is that average medical expenditures for people with diabetes are about $13,000, with $7,900 related to diabetes alone. The article observed that sometimes “individuals only begin to understand the effect a disease has on their life when it hits them in the wallet, and this statistic can be a wake-up call to many.”

I know plenty of people who aren’t spending that kind of money on their diabetes — because they just don’t have that kind of money.

But on the up side, if we can lose 5 percent to 7 percent of our body weight we can greatly decrease the risk of diabetes.

These days there is also more technology to help users and health care providers, specifically in regard to Type 2. There is also a growing focus on prevention. Insurance companies and some employers are investing in educational programs to help diabetics better understand the condition and to get it under control.

But, as with any condition, there are myths that need busting. The association offers these observations:

■ Being overweight is indeed a risk factor for diabetes, but other factors include our physical activity level, family history, ethnicity and age. Weight is not the only risk factor. Many overweight people never get diabetes.

■ A diet high in calories from any source, including sugar, contributes to weight gain, and weight gain increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset. Type 2 is not caused by eating sugar, but by genetics and lifestyle.

■ Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to Type 2 diabetes. The association recommends avoiding them because they can raise blood sugar and provide several hundred calories in just one serving. For example, a 12-ounce can of regular soda has about 150 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrates. This is the same amount of carbs in 10 teaspoons of sugar.

By drinks they mean liquids such as regular soda, fruit punch and fruit drinks, energy and sports drinks and, to the horror of many Southerners, sweet tea.

The association states that diabetes causes more deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined, and having diabetes nearly doubles our chance of having a heart attack. But managing diabetes can reduce the risk for complications.


While perusing Diabetes Awareness Month information, I found out that Camp Aldersgate in Little Rock has a weeklong diabetes camp for children in the summer. It will be July 14-19 next year.

Aldersgate also has camps specific to muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, arthritis, kidney, cardiac, bleeding disorders, oncology and autism. There are age ranges for each camp, but most are for children from 6 to 18. Go to for more information.

As a teenager I volunteered at Aldersgate one week and had the best time. I got more out of it than I thought I would. And the campers were able to experience things they normally couldn’t because of their condition or disability.

I still remember a young teen named Teresa and her Ronald McDonald doll. I smile just thinking of her.

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Style on 11/05/2018


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