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Are You at Risk?

It's Diabetes Awareness Month - Stay Healthy While Enjoying the Good Things in Life

November is American Diabetes Month

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. It can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease and other serious health problems.

There are some risk factors that we can't control, like a family history of diabetes. But other factors that put you at high risk for type 2 diabetes, including smoking or being overweight, are ones you can try to work on. Lifestyle changes like increasing physical activity, losing weight and eating healthy can make a difference.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that causes high blood glucose or sugar. A hormone called insulin is needed to move the sugar but diabetes limits the body’s ability to make enough insulin. When the body can’t make enough insulin or uses the insulin the right way, sugar builds up in the blood. This can cause harm to your eyes, kidneys, and nervous system.

Risk Factors for Diabetes

What are some of the risk factors for diabetes?

High Blood Pressure

Nearly 1 in 3 American adults has high blood pressure and 2 in 3 people with diabetes report having high blood pressure or taking prescription medications to lower their blood pressure.

Your heart has to work harder when blood pressure is high, and your risk for heart disease, stroke and other problems goes up.

High blood pressure won’t go away without treatment. Treatment could include lifestyle changes and, if your doctor prescribes it, medicine.

High Blood Glucose

When you eat, your body breaks food down into glucose (sugar) and sends it into the bloodstream. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps move the glucose from the blood into the cells to be used for energy. Your body usually makes just the right amount of insulin to match the food you eat.

When your body does not use insulin properly, it is called insulin resistance. At first, your body makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time your pancreas isn't able to keep up and can't make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.

When blood glucose levels are higher than normal it is called high blood glucose (hyperglycemia). If your blood glucose gets too high, you will be diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes.

Being Overweight

Being overweight increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. It can also increase your risk of high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels and high blood glucose (sugar).

If you are overweight, losing weight may help you prevent and manage these conditions.
You don't have to lose a lot of weight to improve your health — losing 10-15 pounds can make a big difference.


It is no secret that smoking is bad for your health. Smoking hurts your lungs and your heart. It lowers the amount of oxygen that gets to your organs, raises your bad cholesterol levels and raises your blood pressure. All of these can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.

If you don't smoke, that's great. Make a plan to never start.

If you do smoke, there is something you can do: challenge yourself to quit smoking. 

older women running
Exercise means moving your body.

Exercise lowers your blood sugar and helps you stay healthy.

There are lots of ways to move your body:

  • Aerobic exercise uses large muscles (arms and legs) and makes your heart beat faster. Examples include fast walking, swimming, bike riding and playing sports. Aim for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Strength training helps build muscle. You can use hand weights, elastic bands or weight machines. Or try using items in your home such as soup cans or milk cartons. Aim for three times a week.
  • Daily activities are things you do during the day to move your body like cleaning the house, playing with the kids, walking the dog or parking further away. Try to find ways to move more as you go about your day.

Exercising With Diabetes

People with diabetes need to watch out for a few things when exercising:

  • Exercise can lower your blood glucose too much. Check your blood glucose level before exercise. If it is below 100 have a small snack and bring food or glucose tablets with you when you exercise.
  • Do not exercise when your blood glucose is very high.
  • Do not lift heavy weights if you have high blood pressure or eye problems.
  • Check your feet to make sure do not have cuts or sores which can be made worse by exercise or make exercise painful.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Talk to your doctor about the right type of exercise for you.
  • Start slowly and choose things you like.​

Healthy Eating

Your blood glucose level is tied to the foods you eat. People with diabetes need to balance the type and amount of food they eat at each meal.

You can still enjoy your favorite comfort foods that may be high in sugar and fats, but think about moderation and balance. The key is to eat them only once in a while, in smaller portions and balancing them with healthier foods and more physical activity.

What are the simple rules for eating?

Try to eat three meals at about the same time each day.

Do not skip meals. Never go more than 4 to 6 hours without eating.

What should I eat?
  • Eat a protein (meat, fish, eggs, beans), a grain (bread, tortillas, rice, crackers), and a vegetable at each meal.
  • Choose foods high in fiber.
  • Cut down on how much you eat if you are trying to lose weight.
  • Limit soda and other drinks with sugar like juice. Drink more water instead.
  • Have low or nonfat milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Use small amounts of oil, butter and dressings. Look for the words “no trans-fats” on the food label.
How much should I eat?

Pretend your plate is cut into four parts. Protein and starch (grains) should each fit on one of the four parts and vegetables should fit on the other two.

What about sweets?
  • Any food can fit into your meal plan.
  • Eat less grain as part of your meal when you eat sweets.
  • You can use NutraSweet®, Equal® (aspartame), or Splenda® to sweeten your food and drinks.