The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services National Diabetes Education Program estimates that there are currently 41 million Americans who are at risk for developing diabetes, particularly Type 2 diabetes. Most of these people arent even aware that they are at risk.
If you are over 45, overweight and sedentary you run a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. If you are a member of certain minority groups such as African-American and Hispanics your risk is even greater for developing Type 2 diabetes, but not Type 1. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DCD) 10.8 percent of non-Hispanic blacks, 10.6 percent of Mexican Americans and 9.0 percent of American Indians have diabetes. The white population rate is 6.2 percent.
As with many diseases the effects of diabetes on these populations is more devastating than for the general population. Minorities may also have higher rates of diabetes complications and death; some experts estimate that percentage to be above 50 percent.
It is not entirely clear why some minority populations face greater disparities in certain diseases and in the outcome of these diseases. Heredity is a factor. African Americans also have a higher rate of hypertension than their white counterparts. Hypertension coupled with diabetes plays a critical role in the development of end stage renal disease, which is 2.5 times higher in African Americans.
Lack of health care and treatment are also major issues. The adoption of the American lifestyle has had perhaps the greatest impact on the development of diseases, including Type 2 diabetes in migratory populations. That lifestyle includes diets high in fat, low in fiber, low in vegetables and fruits with little or no physical activity. In all, immigrants moving to America have a higher rate of Type 2 diabetes than the population of their country of origin.
The National Institute of Health sponsored a major study concerning diabetes. This landmark study called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) found that people with an increased risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing 5 to 7 percent of their body weight through a low fat, low calorie eating plan and by getting 30 minutes of physical activity a day, five days a week.
To address the diabetes issue the NDEP developed a program called Little Steps Big Rewards: Prevent Type 2 Diabetes. While there are many diet plans available and fads abound, the best way to be successful at weigh loss is to reduce fat and calories while increasing physical activity. Simply reducing your calorie intake by 100 calories a day and increasing the number of steps you take by 2,000 can show dramatic improvement in your overall health.
The Franklin County Health Department offers monthly educational classes and monthly cooking classes for people who are living with diabetes. These classes are based on sound nutritional and exercise advice that can be beneficial to anyone seeking healthier lifestyle choices.
Debbie Howes Fleming is the health education director with the Franklin County Health Department. For more information about column topics or to contact her or the FCHD Community Health Education team, call 564-5559.