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Wilburn: Diabetes epidemic is on the rise

POSTED: August 27, 2008 5:01 a.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the incidence of diabetes increased 15 percent, or by 3 million people, since 2005. Currently, 24 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 57 million have abnormally high blood sugar levels that indicate that they have prediabetes.

If the current trend continues, the CDC estimates that by 2030, 400 million people will have diabetes.

Part of this increase is due to the fact that we as a nation are older, more overweight and inactive. Also, our population is more diverse with more ethnic groups at greater risk for diabetes such as Native Americans, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans and Asian-Americans.

After reading all of this frightening research, there is some good news! Even though diabetes runs in families, it is not inevitable that someone will develop it.

The Diabetes Prevention Program showed that if a person at risk for diabetes lost 7 percent of their body weight, (if they were overweight) and began exercising at a moderate pace 30 minutes a day, five days a week, the risk for diabetes would decrease by 58 percent.

In adults older than 60, it was even more effective and reduced risk by 71 percent. These lifestyle changes were almost twice as effective as taking metformin, a drug known to improve blood sugar control.

How much is 7 percent of one's body weight? For someone weighing 200 pounds, that is just 14 pounds. You do not even need to get to an "ideal" body weight to see the benefits.

You also need to decrease the fat around your middle. Men who have waists less than 40 inches and women who have waists less than 35 inches are less likely to get diabetes and other chronic diseases.

Fortunately, many people see their blood sugars improve even before they lose much weight just by eating smaller portions of healthier foods and starting to move more. Also, those 30 minutes of activity do not have to be done all at once. Three 10-minute exercise breaks during the day are just as good as one long session.

To see if you are at risk for diabetes, take the risk test on the American Diabetes Association Web site at If you are at risk, have your blood glucose checked annually by your doctor.

If your fasting blood sugar (glucose) is 126 or more, or is 200 or more nonfasting, you probably have diabetes. If your fasting blood sugar is less than 126 but over 100, you might have prediabetes. In both cases, you will need to work with your medical team to make lifestyle changes to bring those numbers down.

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.


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