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Celebrating American Diabetes Month

Elizabeth Hall, Community Contributor • Nov 7, 2018 at 3:57 PM

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and it is estimated that 7 million people in the U.S. are unaware they have it. The good news is that diabetes can often be managed and even prevented with a few lifestyle changes. November is American Diabetes Month — it’s the perfect time to learn about diabetes and how you can reduce your risk.

WHAT IS DIABETES?

Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body uses energy in the form of glucose from food. People with diabetes have a high level of glucose in their blood because insulin is unable to do its job. Insulin is the hormone that our cells need to store and use energy from food. Insulin helps get glucose or sugar, which we make from food, into the cells to be used. In diabetes, either too little insulin is being produced or the body cannot use the insulin produced — glucose is not getting into the cells so it builds up in the blood.

MANAGEMENT AND PREVENTION

No matter the type, one goal for people with diabetes is to control blood glucose levels, sometimes with medication or insulin, but many times through diet. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss and regular physical activity can manage but also help prevent diabetes. Diet modification often includes eating a balanced diet but also a consistent amount of carbohydrates at each meal and snack. Carbohydrates are the foods that affect blood sugar and include starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes, as well as breads, cereals, beans, milk and fruit. High-fiber carbohydrates tend to raise blood sugar at a slower rate.

One important thing to remember throughout the holidays especially is to avoid skipping meals. Many times we are tempted to do this to “save” calories, but this can make you overeat later and can be dangerous for people with diabetes because it could cause a low blood sugar.

Lastly, having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t have dessert! Try to eat desserts close to a meal that includes protein — this will avoid a blood sugar surge.

Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN Food City Registered Dietitian

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