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Diabetes affects nearly 30 million people in the United States – a stunning 10 percent of the overall population. And recent research reveals that diabetes is now the third leading cause of death, not the seventh, as was previously thought. Perhaps the most concerning statistic is that one in four persons living with diabetes is unaware that they have the disease.

Researchers estimate that, if current trends continue, one in three Americans will have diabetes by the year 2050. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to kidney failure, limb amputations, blindness, and even death. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical to preventing irreversible damage to your health and longevity, so awareness and access to care are the key areas of focus.

“The adoption of sugary diets and sedentary lifestyles has caused the disease to reach epidemic proportions. On the positive side, there are tools out there to help empower you to take control of diabetes,” says Sandra Vernon, R.N., Certified Diabetes Educator at Navarro Regional Hospital.

Here are the top five ways to keep blood sugar at healthy levels, and to keep type 2 diabetes from impacting you and your loved ones:

1.Get more physical activity. You don’t have to run marathons for physical activity to add years to your life. Just 30 minutes of intentional activity, at least five times per week, can make a huge difference for insulin resistance. A mix of aerobic, heart-pumping activity with some resistance training is the best plan.

2.Get plenty of fiber. Fiber has many benefits, including improving blood sugar management. Sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and nuts.

3.Choose whole grains. Make sure at least half of your grain intake is whole grains. Whole grains are prepared as close to the source from the Earth as possible. Look for labels that say “whole grains,” and opt for organic when possible.

4.Lose a little weight. Losing even 5 or 10 pounds appears to have an impact on reducing blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. Don’t focus on huge goals – celebrate the small wins!

5.Skip the fad diets. Yo-yo dieting and fad diets are hard on the heart, the mind, and your organs. Just make good, whole food choices 80% of the time, and your body will work the way it was designed.

Navarro Regional offers a self-management program for diabetics to help them develop the skills and knowledge they will need to manage the disease and avoid problems. The Diabetes Education program assists with meal planning, monitoring blood sugars and educates about preventing long term complications. They can also assist with medication education and insulin instruction. Sandra Vernon, R.N., is the program director. Classes are offered at varying times and locations to meet the needs of the individual. For more information, contact Sandra at 903-654-4556.

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