The Gift of Health

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. As we prepare for the holidays and a new year ahead, it is a wonderful time to understand the steps we can all take to prevent and manage diabetes. Through increased activity and healthy eating, we can often delay the onset of diabetes. If we have diabetes we also need to take our medicines and monitor our glucose level so we can avoid the complications of diabetes. It’s a gift of health we can give to ourselves and to our families during this season of celebration.

Symptoms of diabetes can include being very thirsty, urinating often, feeling tired, or losing weight without trying. In many cases, however, there are no symptoms to diabetes and that is why it is important that we all know our blood glucose level. That is the message of the recently announced National Diabetes Goal. More than 30 organizations, including the National Alliance for Hispanic Health and LATINO Magazine, have joined together as National Diabetes Goal Champions. We seek to ensure that by the year 2015, 45 percent of Americans who are at risk for Type 2 diabetes will know their blood glucose level and what actions to take.

Although there are three major types of diabetes, most Hispanics get Type 2 diabetes. The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is the most controllable form of diabetes. In fact the things we need to do to prevent or manage Type 2 diabetes are the same steps that will help us live a healthier life overall. These steps include not smoking, exercising regularly, eating healthy, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Don’t smoke. Smoking complicates risks factors for diabetes and makes management and prevention more difficult. If you smoke, talk to your health provider about a plan for quitting; if you don’t smoke, don’t start!
Exercise regularly. About 30 minutes of exercise five times a week produces great well-being benefits, including helping prevent and manage diabetes. Talk to your health provider about the best exercise program for you and build up gradually.

Eat healthy. Talk to your health provider about changes you should make to your diet, including discussing high glycemic foods such as heavily processed foods including white bread and chips and high sugar foods that can have a significant impact on your blood glucose level.

Maintain a healthy weight. According to the National Diabetes Education program, if you carry too much weight a modest 5 to 7 percent decrease through exercise and healthy eating will have a big impact for diabetes prevention and management. That means if you weigh 200 pounds, a 10-pound loss can make a big difference for your health.
If you are age 45 or older you should have already had a blood glucose test and follow-up test recommended by your health care provider. For many Hispanic adults even earlier testing is recommended if you have other risk factors such as high blood pressure or being overweight. If you have not had a test blood glucose test yet, now is a great time. You can call us at the National Alliance for Hispanic Health toll-free at 1-866-783-2645 for information on diabetes or to find a health care provider in your area if you do not have one.

Your health care provider will advise you on how often to measure your blood glucose and if you have diabetes, possible medications and lifestyle changes that will help you manage diabetes and live a healthy life. Get your blood glucose test today. After all, the gift of health is the best gift you can give your loved ones.

By Jane L. Delgado, PhD, MS