U.S. Public Health Service Cmdr. Aileen Buckler
TRICARE population health physician, TRICARE Management Activity
November is American Diabetes Month. Even though it can sometimes be challenging during the holidays, we encourage you to eat healthy and stay active to help prevent diabetes.
It is no secret that the continued increase inU.S.diabetes cases has been closely tied to escalating obesity rates. Being overweight can make it more difficult for the body to properly use the insulin your pancreas makes, which can eventually cause rising blood sugars and the development of diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 8.3 percent of the people in theUnited States– 25.8 million people – have diabetes, and another 79 million Americans over the age of 20 have prediabetes.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, in the past 50 years, the number of women of military age who exceed the U.S. Army’s enlistment standards for weight-for-height and body fat percentage has more than tripled. For military-age men, the figure has more than doubled. Additionally, over the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates inAmericahave tripled, which puts them at greater risk for health problems like diabetes and for not being able to meet enlistment standards when they reach recruitment age
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list several health complications associated with diabetes:
- Heart disease and stroke. Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about two-to-four times higher than adults without diabetes. The risk for stroke is two-to-four times higher among people with diabetes.
- Hypertension. In 2005-08, of adults aged 20 years or older with self-reported diabetes, 67 percent had blood pressure greater than or equal to140/90 millimeters of mercury or used prescription medications for hypertension.
- Blindness and eye problems. Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20-74 years.
- Kidney disease. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, accounting for 44 percent of all new cases of kidney failure in 2008.
- Nervous system disease. About 60 percent to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage. The results of such damage include impaired sensation or pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion of food in the stomach, carpal tunnel syndrome, erectile dysfunction or other nerve problems.
- Amputations. More than 60 percent of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes.
- Dental disease. Periodontal (gum) disease is more common in people with diabetes. Among young adults, those with diabetes have about twice the risk of those without diabetes.
- Complications of pregnancy. Poorly controlled diabetes before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy among women with type 1diabetes can cause major birth defects in 5 percent to 10 percent of pregnancies and spontaneous abortions in 15 percent to 20 percent of pregnancies.
Studies have shown that losing a small amount of weight (5 percent – 7 percent of your body weight) through eating healthier and doing 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week can delay, and possibly even prevent diabetes.
Watching your weight over the holidays isn’t easy. Holidayparties, family gatherings, and treats at school and work all provide easy ways for us to overindulge. One way to still enjoy your favorite holiday treats is to have small portions, which still lets you get a taste of all the foods you enjoy. It may also be a good time to make healthy carbohydrates such as whole fruits, nutrient-rich grains and vegetables part of your family’s holiday tradition – minus the butter and gravy. Incorporating fiber-rich foods like wheat bran and low-fat proteins such as lean turkey – baked, not deep-fried – in your holiday menu is also a good idea. Another way to make the holidays healthier is to modify your favorite recipes to make them lower in sugar or fat. Check out the recipe section of the American Diabetes Association’s website at www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/recipes/. The National Institutes of Health also has collections of healthy recipes that can be found at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/index.htm#recipes.
You can also squeeze physical activity into your holiday plans. Mall shopping with relatives, a brisk walk with grandchildren or dancing at a party are good ways to burn some of those extra holiday calories and may be helpful for those working to manage their diabetes and stay healthy. Make sure you consult your primary care provider before starting a new exercise program.
If you have diabetes and require medication, adjustments may be necessary to maintain good control if you stray from your usual diet during the holidays. You should discuss this with your health care provider. If you’re not yet enrolled, you’re encouraged to take advantage of the Pharmacy Home Delivery option for all of your diabetes maintenance medications, which can keep you from having to fight traffic to get to a pharmacy during the holidays.
To find out more about diabetes, including risks and prevention tips, visit the CDC’s diabetes website at http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/consumer/index.htm.