World Diabetes Day
Half of the people who have diabetes are not diagnosed, but the truth is that most people in our community feel affected in some way by diabetes anyway. The goal for this year’s World Diabetes Day is to raise awareness of diabetes’ impact on families and what they can do to prevent or manage it together. It’s helpful to know the risks and warning signs, have healthy lifestyles as a family and support one another with treatment.
Although diabetes can start at any age, it’s more common in people over 40, which is why it’s usually checked for every 3 years in that age group. Other risk factors include:
- Having high blood pressure or cholesterol,
- Being diagnosed with prediabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, PCOS or a mental illness,
- Having gestational diabetes while pregnant or giving birth to a large baby,
- Having diabetes in the immediate family,
- Carrying weight around the stomach,
- Being of Indigenous descent, and
- Having a low income.
People with undiagnosed diabetes sometimes don’t have any symptoms. However, they might feel like they’re always tired, have blurry vision, tingling or numbness to their hands or feet, or have infections or cuts that aren’t healing well. Their body weight might also change unexpectedly. Undiagnosed diabetes can also cause extreme thirst and needing to pee often. Let your healthcare provider know if any of these happen to you.
Type 2 Diabetes can often be avoided by living a healthy lifestyle. Did you know that 70% of early adult deaths largely result from behaviors that started in their youth? Instead of only the diabetic family member making health changes, try getting everyone on board! That way, the whole family benefits by taking on lifestyles that help prevent diabetes. A healthy lifestyle involves eating mostly nutritious foods, being active every day (in whatever way you can) and learning to cope with stress in a positive way.
When it comes to eating well, there are different tactics backed by science so it’s encouraged that the family picks an approach that works for them. “Low carb” diets are popular, but it’s important to realize that the quality of the carbohydrates (carbs) matters even more.
Fiber is one type of carb that can not only lower blood sugars, but can also help with cholesterol, gut health and controlling hunger. Sources of fiber include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Try including more of the high fiber foods like raspberries, avocado, potatoes (skin on is important), beans, bran and chia seeds.
Similarly, choosing low glycemic index foods can have many of the same effects. For example, steel cut oats have a low glycemic index and affect blood sugars much better than flavored instant oatmeal. Other low glycemic options include quinoa, barley, firm (al dente) pasta, whole grain or corn tortillas, beans, sweet potatoes and berries. Finally, research also shows that the Mediterranean and vegetarian diets can help control diabetes.
If you or your family needs help making lifestyle changes, the Marathon Family Health Team is here to help! Book an appointment with the Registered Dietitian to understand which foods to include, how to start changing habits or how to grocery shop on a budget. Or, book with the Health Promoter for exercise advice. Our website also gives information about how to be active in the community; simply go to this link http://mfht.org/healthpromotion/ and click “Get Active in Marathon.”
Michelle Stevens, Registered Dietitian