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Health Information Preventing Diabetes

Diabetes begins as a silent disease. It quietly damages the body before there are any clear signs or symptoms. An estimated 20.8 million people in the United States have diabetes; of these 6.2 million are undiagnosed. All it takes is a simple blood test to find out if you have the disease. This will be followed by a consultation with a doctor about the changes that can be made to try to lower the risk of damage to the body caused by the disease.

"My wish is that we could prevent diabetes, before it starts affecting someone's blood sugar levels and body systems," says Arati Wagh, MD, of the Section of Endocrinology at Rush University Medical Center. "The good news is that there are many simple lifestyle changes that can help prevent diabetes — or help control blood sugar after diagnosis with the disease. In my opinion, these changes should be adopted by everyone, not only to prevent diabetes, but to feel healthy and good."

Some of the lifestyle changes Wagh recommends include:

  • A healthful diet
    • High in lean protein
    • Low in carbohydrates
    • Low in saturated fats
    • High in fiber
  • From fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Regular physical activity (about 30 minutes per day)

"We don't want to be too restrictive with these changes," says Wagh. "We hope that you'll be able to incorporate the changes in such a way that you will enjoy them and continue making them part of your lives in the future. These aren't quick fixes, but necessary changes so that you can have a good quality of life."

Exercise doesn't have to be all at once, if it doesn't work into your schedule. "You can break it up into three 10-minute sessions, if that works better for you," Wagh says. "Exercise can have such a great effect on how you body handles blood sugar, which makes it very worthwhile to take this time for yourself." Remember to check with your doctor before you start any new physical activity.

"I realize that it takes extra preparation and time to be healthy," Wagh says. "It really needs to become a top priority, however, and you may find you need to be a little creative to make it work. You don't want to become dependent on medication or insulin for the rest of your life."

The lifestyle changes above are not only for people diagnosed with diabetes — they can also lower some of the risk factors for getting the disease, which include:

  • Being overweight by more than five percent of your ideal weight or having a BMI of 26 or higher o "Even losing a little bit of weight — five to seven percent — can make a big difference in how your body handles sugar," says Wagh.
  • Find out your BMI with our easy-to-use BMI calculator
  • Being sedentary (not getting enough physical activity) "I think its important to make the lifestyle changes fit your life, Wagh says. "Start out with just a few changes to make your life more healthy and then build on that."

Hear Dr. Wagh speak at Rush

  • Dr. Wagh will be speaking on Wednesday, February 7, 2007, at a community health event "Diabetes: Prevention and Management" starting at 10:30 a.m. Dr. Wagh will be joined by Lara Rondinelli, RD, LDN, CDE, a dietitian and coordinator of the Rush Diabetes Center. The event will be held at the Searle Conference Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

    Phone (888) 352-RUSH (7874) for more information or to register. Or visit the Upcoming Events page. You can also use the registration request form to register online.

More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • Looking for more information on diabetes? Read "Diabetes: An Overview."
  • Looking for information about care for diabetes at Rush. Visit the Diabetes Center home page.
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874).

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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