When I think of a lifestyle associated with daily needle prodding—my incurable phobia—I become terrified of sugary donuts. I know that sinful donut, combined with a diet of other junk food and a sedentary lifestyle with little or no exercise, is a prescription for type 2 diabetes.
The good news is that type 2 diabetes is almost completely preventable and in many cases reversible with the proper lifestyle changes. It is not necessary to live a life with constant blood tests and insulin shots. I can even eat that donut, as long as I balance it with a workout and a good diet otherwise.
Every second and fourth Friday morning, the University of Mississippi Medical Center holds classes at the Pavilion Clinic that teach diabetics to manage the disease.
Bonnie Carminati, a nurse practitioner who teaches some of those classes, has assisted diabetes patients for 13 years.
"It can be tough living with diabetes because when those who have it go out and eat with their friends, their friends are eating pizza and drinking coke, and they can't do that. They have to eat in portions," she said.
It isn't difficult to make healthy portions if you keep in mind what Carminati calls the "Mickey Mouse" plate: Half the plate should contain fruits and non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter holds protein, and a quarter grains.
"The best advice that I can offer for diabetes prevention is to go to your health-care provider—especially if you have a family history of diabetes—and work with him closely," Carminati said.
"You need to exercise more and eat better, and I cannot put enough emphasis on weight control."
Type 1 diabetes can happen to anyone—people are usually born with it—while type 2 diabetes is largely preventable.
Diabetes contributes to the death of 1,600 Mississippians each year. An estimated 1,700 Mississippians suffer significant diabetes-related complications annually, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and new cases of blindness, heart disease, stroke and death in United States, reports the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
If you have three or more of the diabetes risk factors below, consider a diabetes screening:
• family history
• sedentary lifestyle
• smoking habits
• unhealthy eating
• high blood pressure
• unusual blood glucose levels
If you have the top three risks (one or both parents had diabetes; you've never exercised much; your BMI is above normal range), experts recommend scheduling a diabetes screening with your health-care provider immediately.
Myths vs. Reality
Myth: All obese people will eventually develop diabetes.
Reality: Obesity is one of the three major risk factors. But even if you are slender, if you have a family history and you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you're just as likely, if not more, to develop type 2 diabetes.
Myth: Diabetes is not a serious disease.
Reality: Diabetes is one of the top illnesses in Mississippi; it causes more deaths than breast cancer and AIDS combined.
Myth: Diabetics must eat a "special" diet.
Reality: A healthy diet for people with diabetes is the same as a healthy diet for anyone. Diabetics should eat the foods and serving sizes recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and limit sweets and fatty foods.
Myth: People with diabetes should not exercise.
Reality: Exercise helps diabetics use insulin more efficiently and maintain or lose weight. Exercise, even a little, can't be underestimated. Adding a daily light walk can do wonders for a body that is unused to any exercise at all.
Myth: It is possible to have a "little" diabetes.
Reality: Either you have diabetes or you don't. If you do, you need to pay attention to it. Even if you do not take oral medication or insulin injections, the condition requires that you manage your food choices and exercise routinely.
Myth: Eating carbohydrates causes diabetes.
Reality: It is not the bread but rather an unbalanced diet loaded with fatty foods, sugar and salt that is dangerous. Diabetes is more likely to happen to those who regularly eat fast food than those who strive for balanced and organic meals.
Online and Local Resources
The site of the American Diabetes Association provides thorough research and information on diabetes prevention and management. Reach the association's Jackson office (350 W. Woodrow Wilson Ave., Suite 2470) at 601-366-1763.
The Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi, located in Ridgeland, hosts numerous fundraisers and provides support for Mississippians with diabetes. Reach the foundation at 601-957-7878.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture site contains tons of information on how to eat better, whether or not you have diabetes. It helps promote responsible and healthy eating that can help prevent type 2 diabetes and help diabetics better cope with the disease.