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FIRST-PERSON: Diabetes: A lifestyle disease

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–Joanne was a dedicated wife and mother. She gave her all for her family, her community and her ministry in her local church.

Through the years, however, Joanne began neglecting her own health, saying she didn’t have time for exercise and her schedule was too full to learn how to eat healthier. As a result, her weight, blood pressure and blood glucose levels steadily began to increase until one day she was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.

At 46, Joanne joined the nearly 16 million Americans who live with this disease every day. But Joanne didn’t take it seriously. She continued to live a high-stress, unhealthy lifestyle and disregarded the advice of her doctor. Joanne began to lose her battle with diabetes. It started slowly — she lost a toe to neuropathy. Then she lost her foot, her leg, her kidney function and her life. The sad reality of Joanne’s story is it didn’t have to happen this way.

According to Dr. Frank B. Hu of the Harvard Medical School of Public Health, “There is no question that diabetes is a lifestyle disease and can be prevented by lifestyle modifications.” His research concluded that simple alterations in unhealthy lifestyle patterns could prevent diabetes in 91 percent of the cases. Here are some facts:

1. Obesity and being overweight were the strongest predictors of diabetes. Sixty-one percent of cases were attributed to weight issues.

2. Women cut their risk of diabetes by 24 percent simply by walking regularly for exercise.

3. Eat fewer fatty and processed foods and decrease the risk even further.

These facts have long-term implications to the abundant life that Jesus desires for us to live. If we allow ourselves to gain too much weight, become sedentary (physically and consistently inactive) and eat poor-quality nutrition, we run the risk of a multitude of medical complications that accompany diabetes. These complications range from dizziness and taking daily medication to the loss of limbs and even death.

So how do we prevent and even reverse the effects of diabetes? Develop a balanced wellness plan that fits your lifestyle. Begin by educating yourself on the proper food to fuel your body and balance your blood sugar. Choose to eat a wide variety of natural and less processed food, including complex carbohydrates, low-fat dairy, small lean portions of fish, chicken, turkey and beef, and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Limit or omit high-fat, high-sugar foods that lead to sharp increases in blood sugar levels. Manage your food intake by eating smaller portions at meals and including healthful snacks.

To continue the process of diabetes prevention or proper management, choose to be active on a daily basis. A recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that walking as little as two hours a week (or 20 minutes a day) decreased the death rate from diabetes by 34 percent! For those with diabetes, pre-diabetes or a family history of heart disease and obesity, the investment of 20 minutes a day in a brisk walk could mean the difference between life and death.

As believers, we are called to live to honor God. Properly caring for your health is one way to honor Him and show gratitude for the life He has blessed you with. Commit to make the wise choices necessary to stay healthy. Diabetes is a lifestyle disease and is preventable by making healthful choices. To learn more about diabetes management and prevention, visit the website of the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.
Branda Polk is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer and wellness coach in Memphis, Tenn.

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  • Branda Polk