The Sweet Quotient

My husband and I were at a party recently and there were a lot of very tempting treats on the dessert table. He has been told to watch his sugar intake and I have to admit, his will power was pretty impressive. He’s not a full-blown diabetic, but has something known as pre-diabetes. That’s when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.

I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the other folks weren’t being so careful about their “sweet quotient”. So I decided to look up some more information and the statistics are pretty scary.

There are roughly 23. 6 million people with the type 2 form of the diabetes, and a quarter of them – almost 6 million people – don’t even know they have it. That means the populations of Los Angeles and Chicago combined are at a huge risk for all kinds of secondary problems – like heart disease, stroke, or premature death and have no clue there’s a problem.

And, another 57 million people have the condition my husband has – pre-diabetes. The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse warns that pre-diabetes should not be shrugged off.  It raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke: pre-diabetics usually develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years of diagnosis.

That’s a huge toll on the medical system – not only in the $218 billion a year spent on treatment, hospitalizations, and concurrent conditions, but also on complications like amputations, kidney problems, or blindness; lost days at work, reduced productivity, diminished quality of life…

Both diabetes and pre-diabetes are becoming more and more common among Americans of all ages. It used to be that type 2, or adult onset, usually didn’t hit people before middle age. But because of our addiction to fast food, junk food, generally poor diets, and sedentary lifestyles, even people in their teens are frequently diagnosed with this disease. No wonder the goals of the upcoming Healthy People 2020 include more prevention, earlier diagnosis, more education and control programs to reduce the incidence and mortality from the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.

So if you’re among the 57 million pre diabetics, or part of that group of 23.6 million people already with the disease, what can you do? First off, make sure you get tested. All it takes is a simple blood test to see where your glucose levels are. Second, watch your diet. And get up off the couch, and get some exercise. Studies have shown that losing 5 to 7 percent of body weight through diet and increased physical activity reduces the risk for diabetes by nearly 60 percent. It can take as little as a half hour a day, 5 days a week, to significantly lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

If you’re African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is even greater. And if you’re a parent, listen up: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that diabetes will affect one in three people born in 2000 in the United States. They also predict that the frequency of diagnosed diabetes in the United States will increase 165 percent by 2050.

There are a lot of food options out there that can help you live healthier, without sacrificing taste. Supermarkets have entire aisles dedicated to diabetic needs. The American Diabetes Association’s cookbooks have some excellent recipes that are both healthy and taste pretty good (I use one of their books myself).

I’ve learned to modify recipes to reduce sugar or other sweeteners, read food labels for “hidden” sugars, and keep snacks around, (like Cheerios and almonds), that won’t send my husband’s glucose levels into orbit. It’s a life-changing condition but it doesn’t mean it’s life-ending. The Natinonal Diabetes Education Program, a joint CDC/NIH effort is a tremendous resource for those at risk or already diagnosed. There are also plenty of support groups to help both patients and their families learn to handle this disease.

Bottom line: take preventive action now. For you, and for your family. Watch your “sweet quotient.” Your body will thank you.

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Liz,

    Great information. This is a very serious problem that is off the radar. I have friends who live with diabetes and it’s important to read labels and understand what sugar actually does to the body. I hadn’t realized that there is a “pre” condition, thanks for bringing that to light.

  2. Great post. My husband is diabetic and I have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. We try to eat more healthily, that is, less processed food, and when we want something “desserty”, we go for scratch baked or high quality. You would be surprised how little something satisfies when it’s made with real sugar, butter, eggs, and milk or cream.

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