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Healthy Habits a 'Family Affair' for People with Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.

The American Diabetes Association estimates that nearly 24 million children and adults in the United States, or 8% of the population, have diabetes. While an estimated 18 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, unfortunately, 6 million people (or nearly one quarter) are unaware that they have the disease.

A growing number of families have multiple members with diabetes. And it's not just limited to adults. Children and teens are developing diabetes at much higher rates.

It's important to remember that taking care of yourself with diabetes takes day-to-day vigilance even when your focus should be on long-term goals like preventing complications that may take years to develop.

Important Lifestyle Changes

Adults with diabetes, and even those without, can teach their children important lessons about lifestyle, food and physical activity that will be with them for a lifetime. Small changes in diet and exercise can prevent type 2 diabetes from developing or slow its progression.

Staying physically active is very important for people with diabetes, but cautions that an exercise program should be coordinated with a balanced diet and controlled diabetes.

Exercise generally tends to lower the blood sugar, but there are situations in which it can cause it to rise, especially in individuals with poorly controlled blood sugar. Changes in diabetes medications and food intake are frequently needed to prevent dangerous consequences and it is best when those are planned for in advance.

Exercise can also have different effects on people with different types of diabetes, so it's important to consult with your physician before beginning an exercise program.

What you eat is one of the most important aspects of managing diabetes. Don't fight against good nutrition; find tips and ideas for making healthful eating a part of your busy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor or a nutrition expert about carbohydrates, fats and diabetes. Utilize information available to you such as the American Diabetes Association website (http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/) for easy-to-use healthy eating and weight loss tips.

Take charge of your diabetes today. Living a successful life with diabetes is achievable to everyone.

This article originally appeared in UC Health Line (4/02/09), a service of the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center Public Relations Department and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.

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Last Reviewed: Apr 16, 2009

Robert M Cohen, MD Robert M Cohen, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati

Jenny  Tong, MD Jenny Tong, MD
Associate Professor of Endocrinology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati