March 24, 2015 is the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Alert Day. Around 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, and an estimated 8.1 million of those are undiagnosed. It is estimated that 25.9% (11.8 million) of Americans age 65 and older have diabetes. Diabetes costs Americans roughly $176 billion for direct medical costs in 2012. It is estimated that an additional 86 million have prediabetes (or blood glucose that is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes).
Diabetes is usually diagnosed as type 1, type 2, or gestational. Type 1 diabetes is the result of the body not producing insulin. Only 5% of diagnosed cases have this form of the disease, and it is usually diagnosed in children or young adults. Type 2 diabetes is a problem with your body that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to be higher than normal. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels may be higher than normal during pregnancy.
The good news is that lifestyle changes may help delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. The first thing you can do to lower your likelihood of developing diabetes is to take the ADA’s risk assessment (link at http://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/diabetes-risk-test/) or visit your health care provider to inquire about your risk for developing diabetes. Some of the risk factors can be controlled, such as being overweight; not treating high blood glucose, high blood pressure, or unhealthy cholesterol; being physically inactive; smoking; or having an unhealthy diet. Other factors, such as family history, age, race, gender, or having a history of gestational diabetes, will raise your risk, but are outside of our ability to control. Many of the controllable risk factors can be addressed by developing good health habits, like:
- eating more healthy meals, by eating leaner meats, more fresh vegetables or fruits, and avoiding soda, sweets, and chips or other snack foods;
- controlling your weight, but it is important to remember that healthy weight loss takes time and work;
- being more physically active, the ADA recommends a routine that includes flexibility exercises, strength training, and aerobic exercise, but even using the stairs or additional walks during the day can make a difference; and
- taking the steps to cease smoking, which will also help lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure.
Ultimately, any and all of the above will help lower your risk for diabetes and a number of other serious medical conditions, but all of them require a desire to live a healthier lifestyle.
Miles Morley is a legal assistant and website administrator at Elder Law of Michigan, and has been a member of the Elder Law team since August 2014.
Miles holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from Baker College of Owosso, Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Lake Superior State University, and graduated with his Juris Doctorate in 2013 from Michigan State University College of Law.
Before joining the Elder Law of Michigan team, he served as an intern at the United States Coast Guard Headquarters . As a legal assistant at ELM, Miles provides legal advice, under the supervision of our hotline attorneys, to Michigan Seniors on a wide-variety of areas, including Medicare/Medicaid. As a website administrator at ELM, Miles is responsible for technology and programming projects.