Diabetes is so common that most people know at least one family member or friend with this chronic illness. There are roughly 30 million Americans with diabetes (about 1 in 10 people). The Bronx has very high rates with approximately one in seven people, or 15 percent of the population, diagnosed with diabetes and many more who have not yet been diagnosed.
In order to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from food, your body produces insulin. Diabetes occurs when the body either produces too little insulin or when the body does not respond appropriately to insulin. This results in high levels of sugar in the blood which can damage organs like the kidneys, brain and the eyes, as well as blood vessels. A simple blood test can tell you whether you have diabetes, or whether you are on the road to developing diabetes (this is called “prediabetes”).
While diabetes has no cure, making lifestyle changes and working with a care team can make significant improvements. Here are some tips that could help:
1) Get Tested Regularly
The A1C is a blood test that gives insights into how a diabetes management plan is working. It is also the primary test used for diabetes diagnosis.
If you haven’t had your blood sugar tested in the last year, visit your doctor and ask them to check your A1C levels. If you have diabetes, make sure you are getting your A1C tested every 3 to 6 months and if you have prediabetes, make sure you are getting checked twice a year.
2) Take Control
- Drink water (regular or sparkling) and avoid sugary juices and sodas. Drinking calories can increase your risk for diabetes and often does not satisfy cravings the same way food does.
- Keep starches to only 1 to 2 servings per meal. A serving is one slice of bread, ½ cup of rice, or 4-6 crackers. Stick to whole grain starches. The fiber is higher in these types of starches and this helps slow down the release of sugar in our body.
- Eating lots of vegetables is a great way to satisfy your hunger and nourish your body without impacting your blood sugar levels.
- Choosing fruits instead of sugary or salty snacks is a great way to stay healthy, particularly if you eat fruits low in sugar like blueberries.
- Exercising 30 minutes five times a week can also help your body use more energy and help maintain a healthy weight.
Small changes to our diet and physical activity can make a world of difference. Our behavior can help us live the life we deserve.
Arcy Segura is the health education manager for the Office of Community & Population Health.