November is one of my favorite months, because I love the Thanksgiving holiday. It is wonderful to be able to spend time with family and friends and remember all the blessings we have experienced together. It’s not the human default mode to be a thankful person rather than a complaining person, because it is much easier to focus on what is wrong with the world. However, being thankful results in less stress, anxiety and anger, and places our attention on God, who is providing for our needs.
November is also Diabetes Awareness Month. About 29 million people have diabetes in the U.S., or 9.3 percent of the population. 86 million people have pre-diabetes, according to a 2012 survey. 26 percent of senior citizens over 65 have diabetes. Diabetics are much more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney disease, eye problems, heart disease, stroke, infections and amputations. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
Diabetes is a disease where the blood sugar levels are higher than normal. This can be due to not enough insulin in the body (Type 1 diabetes), or due to the existing insulin in the body not having its normal effects due to insulin resistance (Type 2 diabetes). Type 1 diabetes accounts for only 5 percent of the people with diabetes and is usually diagnosed in childhood or young adulthood. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the hormone insulin fails to move glucose (sugar molecules) from the blood stream into cells where it can be used for energy production. The extra glucose in the bloodstream damages the cells of the kidneys, eyes, nerves and heart, and decreases the immune system’s ability to protect the body from infection.
Risk factors to develop Type 2 diabetes include having prediabetes or gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy), being overweight, lack of exercise, genetics and ethnicity, older age, having high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol, and smoking.
If you are at risk for diabetes, there are ways to lower your risk through diet, exercise and sometimes medications. Lifestyle modification is more effective than medications in reducing diabetes risk. One diet which seems to decrease diabetes risk is a Mediterranean diet, which can include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and olive oil with low to moderate wine intake. Generally, high intake of simple carbohydrates seems to be more of a problem in developing diabetes than high fat intake. Carbohydrate restricted diets such as the South Beach Diet seem to be effective in reducing insulin resistance as well as cholesterol levels. Foods are categorized by their glycemic index, or ability to raise the blood sugar level, and foods that raise the level quickly are avoided (high glycemic index).
Ask your doctor for more information about diabetes prevention. With the holiday season coming up, try not to gain excess weight, and limit your intake of party foods and desserts. Try to exercise for at least 20 minutes a day, which can include brisk walking or simple calisthenics in your home. Remember to drink enough water and get about eight hours of sleep. Stress increases insulin resistance, which can predispose you to diabetes.
Let’s try to be more thankful and less complaining, and use this holiday season to build relationships that will last a lifetime.
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night” (Psalm 92:1-2).
Janet Abadir is a board certified general surgeon practicing at the Specialty Clinic at Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center.