By Tameka Johnson, RDN
Did you know diabetes is one of the fastest-growing chronic illnesses in the world? Did you know more than 35 million Americans have been diagnosed with it? This means 1 in every 10 people you encounter have had to learn how to wisely manage their glucose or blood sugar daily. You probably know loved ones whose lives have been changed by diabetes. So how is it that we have not learned to slow diabetes’ grip on our society?
If we were going to plan a strategy to defeat an opponent, we would take certain steps. Let’s take that approach to create a strategic plan to decrease diabetes in the United States.
First, we identify the opponent:
Diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose (blood sugar) is too high due to insulin not functioning properly. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and helps unlock cells to allow glucose to be used for energy or stored as needed. With diabetes, insulin production is ineffective, inadequate or impaired. Diabetes is classified into five types, all requiring different levels of treatment.
Second, we defend ourselves from the onset of diabetes by modifying our modifiable risk factors:
To reduce the risk of developing diabetes, recommendations include managing weight within healthy ranges for your individual needs, completing at least 150 minutes of exercise each week, and consuming balanced nutrients to include heart-healthy fats, lean and plant-based proteins, and yes, well planned, nutrient-rich carbohydrates. Because carbohydrates are converted to glucose the quickest, it is important to pay attention to portion sizes, cooking methods, and type of foods consumed.
Third, we create a combat strategy on how to manage diabetes if it develops:
Treatment plans should be individualized. Your medical provider creates a plan based on your circumstances. Ineffective insulin production could become effective again with improved diet and exercise + adequate amounts of physical activity. Inadequate insulin production can be enhanced with oral medication that improves effectiveness by assisting the insulin that is still produced, in addition to diet, exercise and physical activity. Impaired insulin production requires injectable insulin. This helps manage blood glucose levels and should also be conjoined with recommended diet, exercise and physical activity to prevent further complications related to poorly
The best strategy to combat diabetes is to stay alert while working on prevention and remember to encourage at-risk individuals to practice healthy habits consistently. Here are some other steps we can take:
- Prepare meals in advance.
- Find the right portion size based on your metabolic needs.
- Consume healthier foods, the more colorful the better.
- Get screened for diabetes regularly. The older we get, the more frequently we should get screened.
Tameka is the health education director at H.E.A.L. Mississippi. She has a degree in Culinary Arts and in Nutrition and Food Systems, and has been a practicing registered dietitian for over 13 years.