By Vicki Haywood Doe PhD, ACSM-EP-C, MES
Diabetes, a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal, has become a growing health epidemic in the United States. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), approximately 9 percent of the American population including 29 million children and adults suffer from diabetes. Of all the cases, Type 2 diabetes is the most common. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin which enables glucose to be taken up by the cells of our bodies. With this disease, your body either does not make enough insulin or cannot use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes blood glucose to build up in the blood.
These high blood glucose levels can rake havoc on the blood vessels and nerves, and cause serious damage to the major organs of the body. Some of the health complications of diabetes are: kidney failure, atherosclerosis, blindness, amputation of feet and limbs, peripheral vascular disease and hypertension. ADA estimates that both the direct and indirect healthcare cost for the treatment of diabetes can run about $174 billion annually.
Diagnosis is the first critical step in preventing the many health complications related to diabetes. Only approximately 22 million diabetics know that they have. The remaining 7 million sufferers are clueless of the fact that they are diabetic. A condition “pre-diabetes” affects an additional 54 million individuals in the US and is associated with an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.
Each individual needs to take a proactive approach and control their health by “knowing their numbers”; most especially pre-diabetics and diabetics. Knowing/keeping your blood glucose levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, BMI (body mass index), and weight within the normal target range will not only help you control your health but reveal whether you have abnormal target levels and are at risk. Most people who are pre-diabetic or diabetic have no symptoms at all. They may not find out that they have abnormal blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood glucose target levels until they are experiencing the serious diabetes-associated health complications.
The American Heart Association and the National Diabetes Education Program recommends the normal target range for reducing diabetes related heart disease and stroke are as follows:
HbA1C (blood glucose) for pre-diabetics should be less than 6 percent; for diabetic less than 7 percent. Blood test can be done by your healthcare provider at least once a year.
Blood Pressure should be less than 130/80 mmHg and can be checked every doctor’s visit.
Cholesterol (LDL) should be less than 100 mg/dl; HDL cholesterol should be above 40 mg/dl for men and above 50 mg/dl for women. Blood test is done by your healthcare provider at least once a year.
BMI (body mass index) should be 18-6 -24.9 and waistline smaller than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.
Controlling diabetes and keeping optimal target levels of “your numbers” can be successfully done through healthy eating, regular exercise, proper medications and weight control. You can successfully monitor your numbers between doctor visits with the easy to use automatic BP monitor/cuff, the home glucose monitors and of course, the scale and tape measure. Remember to communicate and maintain positive relationships with your doctor, dietitian, exercise specialist, and other healthcare personnel because these professionals can give you guidance, help you with any questions, and offer you much needed motivation and encouragement.
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American Diabetes Association. 2003. Economic costs of diabetes in the U.S. in 2002. Diabetes Care 26:917-932
American Diabetes Association.2004. Physical activity/exercise and diabetes. Diabetes Care 27: S58-S62
American Diabetes Association. 2005. Standards of medical care in diabetes. Diabetes Care 28: S4-S36
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases- www.niddk.nih.gov/
National Diabetes Education Program- http://ndep.nih.gov/