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Diabetes is a major public health problem in the United States and is rapidly growing in prevalence. Approximately 34.2 million people or 10.5% of all Americans have diabetes.
The chronic disease occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or when the body can’t effectively use the insulin it produces. Having diabetes increases the risk of serious health issues, including premature death, vision loss, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and amputation of toes, feet or legs.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease and it’s anticipated that worldwide deaths death from type 2 diabetes will double by 2030. Surprisingly, an estimated 7.3 million people with diabetes remain undiagnosed, and 88 million people over the age of 18 have prediabetes, a condition in which their blood sugar is high, but not high enough to qualify as type 2 diabetics.
“With type 2 diabetes your body is resistant to the insulin your body is making, which ultimately results in elevated blood sugars.” says Dr. Kay Lovig, Chief of Endocrinology at White Plains Hospital. “You should get tested for type 2 diabetes or prediabetes if you have a family history, are overweight or obese, have a history of elevated blood sugars in pregnancy, or have symptoms of elevated blood sugars. Common symptoms of elevated blood sugars include increased thirst, increased urination, dry mouth, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and a darkening of your skin on your neck or fingers. The good news is, even if it’s prevalent in your family history, both prediabetes and type 2 diabetes can be regulated with diet and exercise.”
The likelihood that you’ll develop prediabetes begins to rise at age at age 45. To slow and reverse the onset of prediabetes, Dr. Lovig recommends these steps:
Change your eating habits. Studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial to weight loss. The diet encourages eating nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains while limiting processed foods and sugar. Dr. Lovig also suggests monitoring your carbohydrate intake.
Work up a sweat. Regular exercise can delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. A National Institutes of Health study indicated that a half hour of walking or other low-intensity exercise daily, combined with a low-fat diet, can reduce the possibility of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%.
Lose a belt loop or two. “Being overweight increases your risk for prediabetes,” says Dr. Lovig. “Losing just 5% of one’s weight can help delay or reverse prediabetes as well as the long-term complications of uncontrolled blood sugars.”
Dr. Lovig also recommends talking with your doctor about medications to control prediabetes and having your sugar checked during office visits.
Dr. Kay Lovig is the Chief of Endocrinology at White Plains Hospital, seeing patients in Armonk, White Plains and New Rochelle. To make an appointment, please call 914-849-7900.