Diabetes is a growing concern across Oklahoma. In the last 20 years, the diabetes rate among Oklahoma adults has more than tripled. It’s a disease that affects more than 330,000 people in the state, leading to a lifetime of pain, suffering and early death. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.
Historical Diabetes Rates in Oklahoma
WHAT IS DIABETES?
To understand diabetes, you must first understand the role of insulin in your body. When we eat, our bodies turn food and drinks into sugars, or glucose. This glucose enters our cells to give our bodies energy. In order to enter our cells, our pancreas releases insulin, which allows the glucose to pass into cells.
To put it more simply, picture your cells as a bunch of tiny locks. Insulin is the key that opens them up. When they’re open, glucose can enter and give us energy.
With diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, or can’t use it as well as it should. All of our tiny locks remain locked, which drains our energy and causes glucose to build up in your blood. This can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease, blindness, comas, kidney failure and amputations.
WHAT CAUSES DIABETES?
There are several types of diabetes, but the most common is type 2 diabetes. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, type 2 diabetes can stem from a number of different factors, including genetics. While the disease mostly affects middle-aged and older people, it can also develop in children — especially with the growing rate of childhood obesity.
Anyone who is overweight and inactive is also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. When you consume excess amounts of sugar and calories and are not physically active, it creates an imbalance in your body that can lead to obesity and insulin resistance. Physical inactivity and obesity are strongly associated with type 2 diabetes.
DIABETES AND PREDIABETES SYMPTOMS
Prediabetes is another disease that can occur before the onset of type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is when the amount of glucose in your blood is above normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Prediabetes symptoms can include excessive hunger and thirst, however many people with prediabetes experience no symptoms.
There are several signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes signs and symptoms include:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Extreme hungry
- Unexplained weight loss
- Sudden vision changes
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
- Feeling very tired much of the time
- Very dry skin
- Sores that are slow to heal
- More infections than usual
While these signs and symptoms are common indicators, the only true way to know if you have diabetes is to visit your doctor for a blood test.
HOW TO PREVENT DIABETES
The simple answer is to make healthy lifestyle changes. Since type 2 diabetes is strongly associated with obesity, diabetes prevention relies greatly on:
Limit the amount of calories you eat each day, and try cutting fatty foods, fried foods and sweets. And be sure to always fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at every meal. You can find dozens of healthy recipes here.
Sugary beverages like soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and juice boxes contain tons of calories and shocking amounts of sugar. And they tend to lack any nutrients. Drink healthy, hydrating water instead. You can even infuse your water to give it some extra pizzazz. Find infused water recipes here.
Regular physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Physical activity improves insulin sensitivity, which means your body needs less insulin to keep it running. Adults need 30 minutes of physical activity every day, while kids need 60 minutes.
Besides these healthy lifestyle changes, be sure to get enough sleep every night, too. A good amount of sleep can help improve your health and even prevent the onset of chronic diseases. While sleep needs vary from person to person and change as people age, adults should aim for around 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and children at least 10 hours.
Being tobacco free.
Tobacco use can increase blood sugar levels, leading to insulin resistance. According to the Mayo Clinic, heavy smokers almost double their risk of developing diabetes, when compared with nonsmokers. So if you do use tobacco, consider quitting. For free help and nonjudgmental support, call 1-800-QUIT NOW or visit OKhelpline.com.