Living with Diabetes is Not So Sweet

By Dr. Anita Petruzzelli

You may have heard the news, Paula Deen, the popular chef known for her sugary sweet desserts and buttery rich home cooking, has announced that she has type 2 diabetes. She announced this revelation earlier in January on America’s favorite way to start the day, NBC’s the Today show. Paula has been affected by the disease for the past two years, but only now has she gone public and vowed to offer a lighter side to these dishes that may be to blame for the decline of her health.

Diabetes has become a very common chronic illness. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and directly affects more than 25 million people nationwide, 7 million of whom are not even aware they have the disease. While Paula was aware of her disease state, many Americans are not. The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse estimates that 79 million people are at-risk for the disease, ages 20 and older – and you could be one of them and not even know it.

The sad thing is that type 2 diabetes is a highly preventable disease.  Yes, your risk increases if you have a family history of diabetes, but a majority of cases are linked to factors within your control, such as participation in physical activity, food choices and management of your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Many people believe that only overweight and obese individuals are at-risk for this disease, but a number of statistics unveiled that 15 percent of individuals with diabetes are not overweight.  Those “lucky” individuals who can feast on cheeseburgers and ice cream, never need to break a sweat and maintain a stellar physique – may have some major sludge inside their bodies, putting them at-risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Making changes to your diet, exercise habits and maintaining a normal weight throughout your life span will help prevent diabetes. Keep an eye on your cholesterol levels and blood pressure – remember even normal weight individuals may be at-risk.

Changing your diet is often an easy first step. You might begin by simply adding more non-starchy vegetables to your daily intake or drinking more water. You may want to consider following a structured diet plan, such as the American Diabetic Association diet, the Mediterranean diet or the South Beach diet. These diet plans are all low glycemic diets and will help keep your blood sugar under control.  Whatever plan you choose, do your best to avoid refined carbs such as cakes, breads, cookies, crackers, high fructose corn syrup, boxed cereal, soda and fruit juice. Try shopping the perimeter of the grocery store to avoid being tempted by toxic processed foods. Load up on fresh vegetables and lean proteins and choose moderate portions of healthy fats, such as olive oil, walnuts, almonds and avocados – and don’t forget to include some fiber.

When you are ready to add some physical activity to your routine, remember to try a variety of activities until you find several things you enjoy. Incorporate cardiovascular training and resistance training to optimize your health and your results. Walking, jogging and biking are all easy places to start, but don’t underestimate the effectiveness of jumping on the trampoline with your kids, playing tennis with some old friends or roller blading on the boardwalk. Resistance training doesn’t have to mean pumping iron in the weight room. Yoga, Pilates and some forms of dance that force you to push against your own body weight will also allow you to reap the benefits of weight-bearing exercises.

Remember, you don’t have to make changes all at once – simply making small changes over time that contribute to the overall goal of good health will boost your success.


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