Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Diabetes, Are You At Risk?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes. However, approximately 88 million adults in the U.S. have prediabetes ― a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than they should be but aren’t high enough to diagnose diabetes. As stark as these statistics are, even more frightening is that about 84 percent of those with diabetes do not know they have the disease.
The number of people with diabetes also is growing, and not just in the U.S. As of 2017, there were 425 million adults worldwide with diabetes. It is the leading cause of blindness, amputation, heart disease, and kidney failure. However, diabetes prevention and control can significantly decrease the risk of complications.
Everyone should know their risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. There are several risk factors for diabetes that cannot be controlled, such as family history, age and ethnicity. However, there are other factors that can be controlled, such as obesity, diet and physical activity. Decreasing controllable risk factors will reduce your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes and can be accomplished with three lifestyle changes.
First, if you are overweight, do what you can to lose weight. Studies have shown that modest amounts of weight loss ― five to 10 percent of body weight ― can significantly decease your risk of developing diabetes and can help improve blood sugar control if you do have diabetes.
However, we all know that being told to lose weight can be easier said than done. Start with cutting back on portions, except for vegetables. A good tool to help with portion control is something called “the plate method.” Start with a nine-inch plate, aiming to fill half the plate with vegetables, one-fourth with starches and one-fourth with protein. By following this simple method of meal planning, you can control portions while filling up on vegetables, for a meal that is satisfying but without a lot of calories.
Second is to increase activity levels. Regular physical activity has so many benefits, but it is especially helpful in lowering and controlling blood sugar. Start with finding an activity you enjoy. Turn on some music and dance around the house, go for a bike ride, take a walk, or a go for a swim. Ask a friend or family member to participate with you. Schedule exercise into your day. Make it a priority until it is part of your daily routine.
Finally, become educated about what you can do to reduce the risk of developing diabetes or to control it if you’ve received a diagnosis. If you are high-risk, consider meeting with a dietitian to discuss if there are things you could do differently with your diet to help you decrease your risk. If you already have diabetes, consider receiving diabetes education to learn more about how you can manage it.
Truman VA offers nutrition counseling to Veterans at-risk for diabetes, as well as comprehensive diabetes education through individual and group classes. Jennifer Anderson, a dietitian in Primary Care, is the new diabetes educator at Truman VA. Anderson has twenty years of experience in diabetes management and is a certified diabetes educator. A certified educator is a health professional who possesses comprehensive knowledge and experience about diabetes prevention, prediabetes and diabetes management.
If you are a Veteran and would like more information about reducing your risk of developing diabetes, or you want help with controlling your diabetes, please contact Truman VA’s diabetes educator at (573) 814-6000, extension 53362.