Kimberly Garrison: The diabetes epidemic - and how to avoid it

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

NOVEMBER is National Diabetes Month, which gives us the perfect opportunity to shed much-needed light on this disabling and deadly disease, and provide some optimal strategies for prevention and disease management.

Diabetes comes in several forms:

_ Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder, accounts for about 5 percent of diagnosed cases, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

_ Gestational diabetes affects between 2 percent and 10 percent of pregnant women.

_ Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 95 percent of cases - and it is largely preventable with lifestyle changes in diet and exercise.

There's a major connection between Type 2 diabetes and obesity; more than 90 percent of those diagnosed with it are obese. Plus, about 80 million Americans (that's almost 35 percent of the adult population in the United States) are prediabetic and don't even know it.

If things keep trending in this direction, half of the U.S. population will be diabetic before the end of the next decade.

Diabetes strikes men, women and all races, social and economic groups, though its prevalence increases with age (seven times as high among adults 65 or older). Most minorities have a higher prevalence, too.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that about 80 percent of Type 2 diabetes cases may be preventable through exercise and healthy eating. Developing and maintaining an active lifestyle is critical in the prevention and management of Type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Walking, running, tennis, gardening, weight training, swimming - in short, any physical activity that you enjoy enough to do regularly will help do the trick.

Experts also recommend that overweight or obese Type 2 diabetics shed pounds to better manage health risks. A slow, gradual program that results in a loss of one to two pounds a week is the general recommendation.

Finally, one of the simplest - though not easiest - ways to protect yourself from diabetes is to eat foods that help to keep your blood-sugar levels balanced.

For more information, contact the American Diabetes Association, 150 Monument Road, Bala Cynwyd, 610-828-5003, diabetes.



Kimberly Garrison is a wellness coach and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia. Her column appears Wednesdays. More at