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Don't be a sitting duck -- fight disease
Health advice
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I am constantly amazed at the number of people who still believe there’s nothing they can do to prevent a disease that one or both of their parents have. They’ll tell you they are just doomed.
Is this a cop out, ignorance or a way to excuse poor choices? A smart person with parents who have a chronic disease should read up on that disease, note the risk factors and create lifestyle habits that eliminate those risk factors. It’s not rocket science. It’s not difficult. It’s a way to ensure you don’t suffer as your parents have.
Twenty-five years ago, when your parents were your age, they didn’t always know what caused their illness. There were even many health care providers who subscribed to the belief that children follow their parents when it come to chronic disease, but never bothered to ask, ‘why?’
However, 25 years ago, Americans had better eating habits and exercised more as a way of life. People mowed theirs lawns without riding mowers. They walked to visit a friend three streets over. We lived healthier lives back then.
While heredity still plays a part, people today struggle with disease more because of our lifestyle habits. We eat foods high in carbohydrates, fats and sugar. Our diets are low in fiber and vitamins. We don’t zoom in on multi-grained breads and cereals, colorful vegetables and fruits. And we’re overweight because we sit at our computers, watch our huge televisions and keep promising ourselves we’ll walk or work out “tomorrow.”
March 24 is American Diabetes Alert Day. This is a one-day “wake-up” call to inform the American public about the seriousness of diabetes.
• 24 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes.
•Nearly one-quarter of those 24 million do not know they have diabetes.
• One in five Americans is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
For many, diagnosis may come seven to 10 years after the onset of the disease. Therefore, early diagnosis is critical to successful treatment and delaying or preventing its complications, such as heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, stroke, amputation and death.
Everyone should be aware of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes. People who are overweight, not active and over the age of 45 are at risk for the disease. African-Americans, Latinos, Native-Americans and people who have a family history of the disease are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
Known as a silent killer, diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.
Diabetes complications may include:
• Blindness. Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in people ages 20-74. Each year, between 12,000-24,000 people lose their sight because of diabetes.
• Kidney disease. Diabetes is the leading cause of end-stage renal disease, accounting for about 40 percent of new cases. In 1995, approximately 27,900 people initiated treatment for end-stage renal disease (kidney failure) because of diabetes.
• Nerve disease and amputations. About 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of diabetic nerve damage, which, in severe forms, can lead to lower limb amputations. In fact, diabetes is the most frequent cause of non-traumatic lower limb amputations. The risk of a leg amputation is 15-40 times greater for a person with diabetes. Each year, more than 56,000 amputations are performed among people with diabetes.
• Heart disease and stroke. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease, which is present in 75 percent of diabetes-related deaths (more than 77,000 deaths due to heart disease annually). And, they are two to four times more likely to suffer a stroke.
As you can probably tell, diabetes is one of the most costly health problems in America. Health care and other costs directly related to diabetes treatment, as well as the costs of lost productivity, run $98 billion annually.
A chronic disease for which there is no known cure, diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a very important hormone because it is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. While the cause of the disease is still a mystery, both genetics and environmental factors (such as obesity and lack of exercise) appear to play roles. There are two major types of diabetes:
• Type 1: A disease in which the body does not produce any insulin, most often occurring in children and young adults. People with type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin injections to stay alive. Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5-10 percent of diabetes. Siblings of people with type 1 diabetes and children of parents with type 1 diabetes are at greatest risk for this type of diabetes. Warning signs of type 1 Diabetes are:

• Frequent urination
• Unusual thirst
• Extreme hunger
• Unusual weight loss
• Extreme fatigue
• Irritability

Type 2: A metabolic disorder resulting from the body’s inability to make enough, or properly use, insulin. It is the most common form of the disease. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95 percent of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is nearing epidemic proportions, due to an increased number of older Americans and a greater prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyles in our country. People who are at greater risk for type 2 Diabetes include:

• People over age 45
• People with a family history of diabetes
• People who are overweight
• People who do not exercise regularly
• People with low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides
• Certain racial and ethnic groups (e.g., African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders)                  
• Women who’ve had gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes occurring in 2-5 percent of all pregnancies, or women who have had a baby weighing 9 pounds or more at birth.

Some people with Type 2 Diabetes have no symptoms while others may have the following warning signs:

• Any of the Type 1 symptoms
• Frequent infections
• Blurred vision
• Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
• Tingling/numbness in the hands or feet

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has increased more than six-fold from 1.6 million in 1958 to 10 million in 1997 and 16 milliontoday. Each year, 800,000 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed.
Remember, there is no cure for this disease and the resulting health complications from poorly controlled diabetes are what make it so frightening. Lifestyle changes in diet and exercise can actually prevent, reduce or delay the risk of developing the disease.
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