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Live healthy: Living with diabetes

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Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies.

When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.

Diabetes Quick Facts

  • 25.8 million American's – 1 in 12 – are affected by diabetes. If health trends continue, that number could be 1 in 3 by the year 2050.
  • Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness, lower-limb amputation and kidney failure among American adults.
  • 346 million people worldwide are affected by diabetes.
  • More than 80% of people with diabetes live in low-and middle-income countries.
  • Total deaths from diabetes are projected to rise by more than 50% in between 2014 and 2024.

The good news is with proper diet and exercise, diabetes can be managed and controlled. Organizations like Direct Relief and companies like BD developed a program to assist people with insulin-dependent diagnosed diabetes, providing 10 million insulin syringes and pen needles to a nationwide network of nonprofit clinics in 2013. While that program has ended, there are other means to pay for diabetic supplies and medicines.

Types of Diabetes

  • Type 1 (previously called insulin-dependent or juvenile-onset) – Your body does not make insulin at all. diabetes accounts for approximately 5 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults.
  • Type 2 (previously called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset) – Your body does not make or use insulin well. diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults. However, Type 2 is increasingly being diagnosed in children and adolescents.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs in 2 to 10 percent of pregnancies. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 35 to 60 percent chance of developing diabetes, mostly type 2, in the next 10 to 20 years.

Steps To Live Healthy with Diabetes

Cope with your diabetes. Reduce your stress. Try deep breathing, gardening, taking a walk, meditating, working on your hobby or listening to your favorite music. Ask for help if you feel down. A counselor, support group, clergy, friend or family member are great people in your support network to reach out to for advice.

Eat well. Make a diabetes meal plan. Choose foods that are lower in calories, saturated fats, trans fat, sugar and salt. Eat foods with more fiber. Eat more fruits, veggies, bread, cereals and low-fat dairy products. Drink water instead of juice and soda. When eating, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with a lean protein like beans, chicken or turkey without the skin and one quarter whole grain such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta.

Be active. Start slow by taking 10 minute walks, three times a day. Twice a week, use stretch bands, do yoga, heavy gardening or try push-ups. Stay at or get to a healthy weight by using your meal plan and moving more.

Stick to a daily routine. Take your meds for diabetes and any other health problems even when you feel good. Ask your doctor if you need aspirin to prevent a heart attack of stroke. Tell your doctor if you cannot afford your meds or if you have any side effects. Check your feet every day for cuts and swelling. Brush your teeth and floss daily. Stop smoking. Test your blood sugar and blood pressure levels and keep a log of your results.

People Who Can Help You Manage Your Diabetes

  • Dentist
  • Diabetes doctor
  • Diabetes educator
  • Dietitian
  • Eye doctor
  • Foot doctor
  • Friends and family
  • Mental health counselor
  • Nurse or nurse practitioner
  • Pharmacist
  • Social worker

SOURCES: CDC.gov, NDIC, NIH.gov, and DirectRelief.org

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