November 14, 2008

Get An Early Start in Preventing Diabetes

By Nelly Beltran

November is American Diabetes Month! This gives us the opportunity to raise awareness about one of the conditions that has affected 23.6 million children and adults in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association. According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2005), diabetes is one of the top 5 leading causes of death in the Latino population. Nearly 1 in 5 Latino adults over the age of 50 have diabetes, which is the highest rate among all ethnic groups. In 2007, 186,300 children and adolescents under 20 were diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is critical for processing sugar, starches and other foods into energy that we need for our daily lives (www.diabetes.org). Among children and adolescents under the age of 20 who are diagnosed with diabetes, the majority are obese, have a strong family history of diabetes and suffer from insulin resistance. Unfortunately, diabetes in children has been difficult to diagnose, due to the lack of symptoms or the presence of mild symptoms (www.cdc.gov). Take this opportunity to understand how you can prevent it in your life and in the lives of your loved ones.

So you are probably asking yourself, what can I and my loved ones do to prevent diabetes?

The National Diabetes Education Program (2006) provides a game plan called “Small Steps, Big Rewards.” To learn more about their program, please visit their website for details on how you can track your health and reduce your risk of getting diabetes (www.ndep.nih.gov).Their game plan for diabetes prevention is not only proven it is also doable and powerful!

The keys to successful prevention of diabetes are:

1. Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week. This may include walking, jogging, gardening, dancing, aerobics, basketball, and soccer.

2. Eating a variety of foods that are low in fat and reducing the number of calories you eat per day. This involves eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fish. Foods that are low in saturated fat such as fish and chicken are good for you as long as they are not breaded or deep-fried.

Remember, you don’t have to prevent diabetes on your own. Involve a friend or family members in your efforts so that together, you can live longer and healthier lives. By taking steps to prevent the onset of diabetes you are also lowering your risk for complications that are detrimental to your health, for example, heart disease and stroke.

Some common symptoms of diabetes among Latinos are high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being overweight. If you are unsure about any of these symptoms or your risk for developing diabetes, speak to your physician or simply take a diabetes risk test online at: www.diabetes.org/risk-test.jsp. To join free physical activity groups in San Diego’s South Bay, contact Sara Solaimani of the Familias Sanas y Activas program, San Diego Prevention Research Center at: 619-594-2965.

Nelly is a student at San Diego State University’s School of Public Health.

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