By Francine Grabowski, MS, RD, CDE
Program Manager, Cooper Diabetes Center
As you prepare for family dinners and get-togethers this holiday season, think about how many people in your family have diabetes. If your mother, father, sister or brother has diabetes, it is more likely you will also get diabetes.
But diabetes can be prevented. There is a window of opportunity right before the diagnosis of diabetes called pre-diabetes. One of the most important studies in the field of diabetes, The Diabetes Prevention Program, has shown us beyond a shadow of a doubt that during this period of time, diabetes can be stopped for many people with pre-diabetes.
How do you know if you have pre-diabetes and what do you have to do to stop diabetes in its tracks?
It is now very easy to check if you are heading toward diabetes. Ask your doctor for a blood test called a Hemoglobin A1c, which measures the amount of glucose that has “sugar-coated” the hemoglobin in your blood. If you have normal blood glucose, the Hemoglobin A1c is about 5 percent “sugar coated.” If your Hemoglobin A1c is 6.5 percent or higher, you have diabetes. But there is a period of time, called pre-diabetes, when you can turn back the hand of the ticking clock of diabetes, and that is when your Hemoglobin A1c is “sugar-coated” between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent.
Stopping diabetes is easy. The Diabetes Prevention Program has shown that losing 7 percent of your weight (for a 250 pound person, 7 percent translates into 17 pounds) and exercising 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can stop diabetes in its tracks. It is a good idea to start with being more active, because being active can help with weight loss. Start with an activity you enjoy and something you know you can do, such as bowling, dancing to your favorite oldies or maybe a walk around the block with a friend.
Then make a family commitment, because if you take care of yourself and are active, there is a good chance your children and grandchildren will follow in your footsteps.
So, this year, as you celebrate the holidays with your family, tell them the steps you will take to lose weight and ward off diabetes – for instance, you’re going to take a walk around your neighborhood, three times a week – so that you will be around to celebrate with them next holiday season, and for many holiday seasons to come.
Remember, you can prevent diabetes by reducing your weight and increasing your activity. Cooper’s comprehensive education and nutrition programs – The Healthy Weigh and The Diabetes Weigh – can help you achieve your goals and ensure your health.
In addition to being Program Manager of the Cooper Diabetes Center, a program of Cooper University Hospital’s Department of Endocrinology and the Center for Health and Wellness, Francine Grabowski is co-author of The Best Diet on Earth, based on The DASH Diet, and Lead Diabetes Educator for the Camden Citywide Diabetes Collaborative.