You may be able to avoid diabetes BY Ellen Lee Alderton
November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and you’ll most likely know someone who has this disease. Diabetes poses a huge health problem in the Latino/Hispanic community. In the United States, about one in ten Latinos age 20 and older is diagnosed with diabetes, and many people can have the disease without realizing it.
There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood and occurs when the body attacks its own insulin-producing cells. Insulin is the substance your body uses to absorb glucose (a simple sugar) from your blood. People with type 1 diabetes require insulin injections to stay healthy. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, usually develops later in life. With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin as well as it should to absorb glucose from your blood. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood and can cause a variety of problems over time, including damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart. Type 2 diabetes is treated primarily through exercise, a strict diet and also with medications.
According to the Latin Diabetes Association (LDA) you should see your doctor for a diabetes test if you have any of the following symptoms: frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, sudden changes in vision, feeling fatigue most of the time, sores that take time to heal, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, very dry skin or more infections than usual.
The good news about type 2 diabetes is that it can be largely prevented. The Federal Institutes of Health has found that people at risk for type 2 diabetes may reduce their chances of developing the disease by losing weight, focusing on physical activity for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and choosing healthier foods that limit the amount of calories and the amount of fat in your diet.
LDA emphasizes, “You’ve heard it countless times before: eat healthy.” At the same time, it is not always clear what “healthy eating” means. The organization provides some very simple guidelines for people who want to improve their diet and reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes: Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, and avoid salty, fat-filled snacks. Drink water instead of soft drinks or fruit drinks. Try grilled or baked foods instead of fried foods. If you feel like eating sweets, eat a piece of fruit instead of a dessert.
For more information on diabetes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer an informational helpline at (800) 232-4636.
Ellen Lee Alderton is the Director of Education for La Mano Amiga,a Colorado-based nonprofit.
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