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Follow first lady's lead: Stop diabetes
Health advice
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First Lady Michelle Obama has been instrumental in starting the nationwide “Let’s Move” campaign, which focuses on decreasing childhood obesity. The goal is to help children reach adulthood at a healthy weight, which will decrease future health problems. One-third of all children in this country are either overweight or obese, which is a risk to their health and to our economy. The United States spends billions of dollars each year treating obesity-related conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Let’s Move is about families making manageable changes that fit their schedules, budgets, needs and tastes. It’s about giving parents the tools they need to keep their families healthy and fit, and about getting more nutritious food — fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and less sugar, fat and salt — into our nation’s schools.
Approximately one in every 400-600 American children and adolescents has type 1 diabetes, which often is the result of obesity. This means that about 176,500 people under age 20 have diabetes, which will result in a variety of health problems for those who don’t control the disease. Cardiovascular and kidney disease are just two health complications that can result from diabetes.
Diabetes, like high blood pressure, can be a silent disease — while some people with type 2 diabetes may experience symptoms, others may go seven-10 years without any obvious symptoms. In fact, it is possible to have diabetes for years and never know it. But during that time, the elevated level of sugar in your blood may be harming your eyes, nerves and kidneys. It is very important to get treated if you have diabetes. Not being properly treated will put you at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, blindness, high blood pressure, kidney disease and amputations. Diabetes is not something that can be ignored — it is currently the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S. with one out of every 10 health care dollars being spent on diabetes and its complications.
The health and economic consequences of this disease on our population are huge. One in three Americans born in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime and there are presently more than 20 million people in the United States who have diabetes.
There are several different types of diabetes. They are:
Type 1 diabetes: Once known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, or juvenile-onset diabetes, this type of diabetes accounts for 5-10 percent of all diagnosed cases and requires that insulin be taken. Risk factors include autoimmune issues, genetics and environmental factors.
Type 2 diabetes: Previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, or adult-onset diabetes, type 2 diabetes may account for about 90-95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Risk factors include older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, prior history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity and race/ethnicity.
Gestational diabetes: Affects about 4 percent of all pregnant women. While the condition usually disappears when a pregnancy is over, women who have had gestational diabetes are at increased risk for later developing type 2 diabetes. Some studies have reported that approximately 40 percent of women with a history of gestational diabetes eventually developed diabetes.
Other types of diabetes have been known to result from specific genetic syndromes, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections and other illnesses. These forms of diabetes may account for 1-2 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.
You are at risk of developing diabetes if you:
1. Are older than 45
2. Are overweight
3. Have a close family member — like a parent, brother or sister — who has or had diabetes.
4. Have had diabetes when you were pregnant.
5. Are African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian-American, Pacific Islander or Native American.
• Frequent urination     
• Excessive thirst
• Unexplained weight loss
• Extreme hunger
• Sudden vision changes
• Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
• Feeling very tired
• Very dry skin
• Sores that are slow to heal
• More infections than usual
If you are at risk and have one or more symptoms of diabetes, see your health-care provider now. Irreversible complications may result from lack of or improper treatment. For more information about diabetes, contact your health-care provider or local health department.

Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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