November is National Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Some parts of the food we eat turn into sugars for our bodies to use as energy. When you have diabetes, your body can't process sugar well, and it builds up in your blood.
Diabetes can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, blindness or kidney failure and can result in amputations. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
According to the National Diabetes Education Program, more than 29 million people, or 9 percent of all Americans, have diabetes. About 11 percent of Carroll County residents have diabetes. Nearly 28 percent of those who have diabetes don't know they have it.
If you have diabetes, National Diabetes Month is a great time to learn more about how to stay healthy and prevent the long-term health problems that can be linked to diabetes. If you don't have diabetes, it's important to find out if you might be at risk.
Find out if you are at risk for diabetes with a quick online quiz: http://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/diabetes-risk-test.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1 of every 3 adults in the United States, or 79 million Americans, had pre-diabetes in 2010. Most people with pre-diabetes do not know they have it.
People with pre-diabetes have higher blood sugar than normal, but not high enough to have a diabetes diagnosis. Without lifestyle changes, people with pre-diabetes are at a higher risk of getting diabetes.
Many of the same healthy behaviors can help prevent diabetes, and help people who have diabetes to stay healthy and prevent heart disease and other conditions.
The same key factors that help reduce your risk of many other health problems also help reduce your risk of diabetes:
•Losing weight — Even losing just 5-7 percent of your body weight can help reduce risk.
•Getting active — Experts recommend 150 minutes a week, which is just 30 minutes, 5 days a week. A great way to get moving is to join Walk Carroll, a free local walking program with events and giveaways: http://www.healthycarroll.org/prevention-intervention/walk-carroll.
•Eating well — Eat more fruits and vegetables, lean protein and dairy, and whole grains. Eat fewer chips, cookies and other foods high in sugar, salt and fat.
To learn more about Carroll County area resources for physical activity, healthy eating and more, visit the Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County's "Local Links" page at http://www.healthycarroll.org/prevention-intervention/local-links-to-health-2. For more tips on lowering your risk of diabetes, visit http://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/lower-your-risk.
The National Diabetes Education Program recommends that people with diabetes work on their ABCs:
A — Get an A1C test to measure your blood sugar over the past 3 months.
B — Know your blood pressure.
C — Know your cholesterol.
S — Stop smoking.
In addition, the program has other tips for managing diabetes:
•Use your diabetes meal plan. If you don't have one, ask your health care team.
•Eat more fruits and vegetables, and choose lean meats and dairy products.
•Eat foods that have less fat and salt and more fiber.
•Get 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.
•Stay at a healthy weight.
•Learn to cope with stress. Stress can raise your blood sugar.
•Take medicines even when you feel good. Ask your health care team if you need aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke. Tell them if you cannot afford your medicines or if you have any side effects.
•Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, red spots and swelling. Call your health care team right away about any sores that do not go away.
•Brush your teeth and floss every day to avoid problems with your mouth, teeth or gums.
•Check your blood glucose (blood sugar). You may want to test it one or more times a day.
•Report any changes in your eyesight to your health care team.
Carroll Hospital Center's Diabetes Center has several programs to help people manage their diabetes, including one-on-one and group classes, counseling and support groups. Learn more by visiting their website at http://www.carrollhospitalcenter.org/diabetes or calling 410-871-6348.
Diabetes HealthSense provides resources for people with diabetes or at risk of diabetes to live well and meet their goals: http://ndep.nih.gov/resources/diabetes-healthsense/index.aspx.
The American Diabetes Association also has programs and events in the Baltimore region. Visit http://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/local-offices/baltimore-maryland or call 410-265-0075.
Whether or not you have diabetes or are at risk, making healthy choices like being active, eating well and losing weight if you are overweight can help you stay healthier and live longer.
Maggie Kunz, of Caring Carroll, works for the Carroll County Health Department.