Know your risks, raise your awareness and prevent diabetes
By Rhonda Moore Johnson, M.D., M.P.H., medical director, Highmark Inc.; Jane Livingston, RD, LDN, CDE, program developer, Highmark Inc.
Diabetes affects nearly 24 million Americans, making it the seventh leading cause of death. From 1980 to 2005, rates of diabetes increased 69 percent among black females and more than doubled in black men. In fact, African Americans are more than twice as likely as Caucasians to have diabetes, and African Americans born in the year 2000 face a two in five risk for diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 25 percent of people who have diabetes don’t even know it.
Know your risks
It’s important to know the risks for developing diabetes so you can begin making preventive lifestyle choices today. You have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes if:
- You have a family history of diabetes.
- You developed diabetes during pregnancy.
- Your race or ethnicity is African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American or Pacific Islander.
- You have high blood pressure.
- You are over age 45.
- You are overweight.
- You are physically inactive.
You should be screenedfor type 2 diabetes at three-year intervals beginning at age 45,particularly if you’re an individual with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater. Speak with your health care provider about your personal risks and how often you should be tested.
Raise your awareness
Only some people experience warning signs or symptoms of diabetes—that’s why it’s important to know the risk factors. Individuals may go many years without apparent symptoms of diabetes. Plus, some of the symptoms for diabetes are similar to other conditions. Don’t assume that a “lack of symptoms” means that everything is okay. Some of the warning signs include:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger (especially after eating)
- Unusual weight gain or loss
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Slow-healing sores or cuts
- Bleeding and sore gums
If you experience any of these symptoms, see your health care provider as soon as possible.
- Talk to your health care provider about a prevention plan. Regular medical check-ups and a healthy lifestyle can dramatically lower the risk of developing diabetes. Take action today to control your risk tomorrow.
· Work on losing weight, if overweight. Losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can significantly lower your risk—that’s 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Reduce the number of calories you eat by decreasing portions and leaving a few bites of food on your plate.
- Strive to get some exercise every day. Work up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking.
· Make healthy food choices and eat regular meals and snacks. Choose high fiber, whole grain foods over refined grains and “white” starchy products. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and drink water and other calorie-free beverages. Use our Plate Planner to help you learn to balance meals and control portions.
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November is American Diabetes Month, if you or someone you know is concerned about the risks of diabetes, don’t wait. Talk to your doctor. For more information about diabetes, visit the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, http://www.cdc.gov/omhd/
Dr. Johnson is the medical director of health equity and quality services at Highmark Inc. She leads Highmark’s efforts to reduce racial and ethnic health care disparities among Highmark members through clinical interventions and improvements in health literacy, language access and health-plan cultural competency.
Jane Livingston is a preventive health services program developer for Highmark Inc.She coordinates and manages program development, implementation and evaluation of preventive health and wellness programs for Highmark employees, Highmark group accounts, and community and hospital-based sites. Ms. Livingston is a registered dietitian, Pennsylvania licensed dietitian-nutritionist and certified diabetes educator.
About Highmark Inc.
As one of the leading health insurers in Pennsylvania, Highmark Inc.’s mission is to provide access to affordable, quality health care enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. Based in Pittsburgh, Highmark serves 4.7million people through the company’s health care benefits business. Highmark contributes millions of dollars to help keep quality health care programs affordable and to support community-based programs that work to improve people’s health. Highmark exerts an enormous economic impact throughout Pennsylvania. A recent study states that Highmark’s positive impact exceeded $2.5 billion. The company provides the resources to give its members a greater hand in their health.
Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.