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November is National Diabetes Month. Let’s take a moment to raise our awareness about diabetes and prediabetes and ways you can continue to live healthy.

Type 2 diabetes (adulthood) is a chronic disease that occurs when your blood sugar is too high. It affects about 37 million Americans. Uncontrolled or poorly managed diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and other serious medical conditions. Type 2 diabetes is more common among Asians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and African Americans. Being overweight or obese also significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Other risk factors include family history, blood lipid levels, age, and prediabetes status.

If you have type 2 diabetes, take steps as soon as possible to manage diabetes by improving your health.

Do you know your diabetes ABC?

• A stands for the A1C test, which measures your average blood glucose level over the last three months. You want to make sure your blood sugar doesn’t get too high. The A1C goal of many people with diabetes is below 7.

• B stands for blood pressure. When your blood pressure is too high, your heart is working too hard. The blood pressure goal for most people with diabetes is below 140/90.

• C stands for cholesterol. There are two types of cholesterol – LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). High levels of total cholesterol can lead to reduced glucose tolerance, and high HDL levels can further increase the risk of diabetes.

Learning to live healthily with diabetes:

• Manage stress, as stress can raise your blood sugar. Try deep breathing, going for a walk, meditating, or listening to your favorite music.

• Ask for help when you’re feeling down. Consult a good friend or ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health counselor or support group.

• Eating healthy. Choose foods that are low in calories, saturated fat, sugar and salt. Eat high-fiber foods, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and drink water instead of juice and soda.

• Be active. Set aside at least 30 minutes to be active most days of the week.

• Take the diabetes medicines prescribed by your doctor.

• Check your feet daily for cuts, blisters, red spots and swelling.

• Brush and floss your teeth every day to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy.

• Monitor your blood sugar one or more times a day and your blood pressure regularly.

• Visit your healthcare team at least twice a year, more frequently, to treat problems early.

Prediabetes means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to diagnose diabetes. Nine out of ten people don’t know they have prediabetes. It’s important to know if you have prediabetes so you can take steps to reverse it and prevent a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. You can take a simple test that only takes a minute or two to determine if you are at high risk for prediabetes: livinghealthy.hawaii.gov/prevent-diabetes-2/.

If your results suggest you may have prediabetes, it’s important to see your doctor and take steps to reduce your risk. Prediabetes is reversible!

If your risk is low, great! Continue to maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, get plenty of sleep, reduce alcohol consumption, and avoid using tobacco products. Eat healthy meals and snacks with fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins, and whole grains. Keep processed foods that are full of added sugar, salt and saturated fat to a minimum.

Many organizations in Hawaii offer Diabetes Prevention Programs, a lifestyle modification program that teaches you how to be healthier and control your weight so you can prevent diabetes. Without a lifestyle change program, 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years, and 70 percent of prediabetics will eventually develop type 2 diabetes. To find a program on your island, go to: livinghealthy.hawaii.gov/prevent-diabetes/find-a-cdc-approved-dpp/.

You can make small lifestyle changes to help prevent diabetes. If you already have diabetes, there are simple skills you can learn to keep living healthy. For more information, see the Hawaii Department of Health’s Prevent Diabetes Hawaii campaign: livinghealthy.hawaii.gov/prevent-diabetes-2/.

* Kristin Mills is a Public Health Educator in the Maui District Health Department of the State Department of Health. No Ka Oi Health is published on the fourth Thursday of each month.


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