Controlling Your Risk for Diabetes

If you knew that you could stop a disease just by making a few changes to your diet and activity level, would you?

Approximately 57 million people in the United States have pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes is the term used for people before developing type 2 diabetes, according to Jeril Goss of The Diabetes and Nutrition Wellness Center of Penn Highlands which serves patients throughout the Penn Highlands Healthcare region with offices in DuBois, St. Marys, Clearfield, Punxsutawney and Philipsburg.

Goss, a certified diabetes educator and a dietitian, said people who have pre-diabetes have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, recent research has shown that some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during pre-diabetes. But the same research has also shown that taking action to manage blood glucose, or sugar, can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes from ever developing.

How do you know if you have pre-diabetes? Many people may not think they are affected because pre-diabetes has no symptoms. Pre-diabetes occurs before diabetes symptoms - such as unusual thirst, a frequent need to urinate, blurred vision or extreme fatigue - show up. For most people, a routine medical lab test for blood sugar levels will give the first clue that there may be a problem starting.

If you haven’t had a blood test lately, consider the following risk factors. Are you:
• Someone with a family history of type 2 diabetes?
• A women who had gestational diabetes or had a baby weighing more than nine pounds?
• A woman who has polycystic ovary syndrome?
• African American, Native American, Latino or Pacific Islander - groups that are disproportionately affected by diabetes?
• Overweight or obese, especially around the belly?
• Someone with high cholesterol, high triglycerides, low good HDL cholesterol and a high bad LDL cholesterol?
• Inactive?
• Older? As people age they are less able to process sugar appropriately and therefore have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

What are some of the ways to control risks for diabetes?

Eat a heart healthy diet and lose weight. A 5-10 percent weight loss can make a huge difference.
• Eat lots of vegetables and fruits. Pick a rainbow of colors to maximize variety. Eat non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, carrots, broccoli or green beans with meals.
• Choose whole grain foods over processed grain products. Try brown rice with your stir-fry or whole wheat spaghetti with your favorite pasta sauce.
• Include dried beans - like kidney or pinto beans - and lentils in meals.
• Include fish in your meals twice a week.
• Choose lean meats like cuts of beef and pork that end in "loin" such as pork loin and sirloin. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
• Choose non-fat dairy such as skim milk, non-fat yogurt and non-fat cheese.
• Choose water and calorie-free drinks instead of regular soda, fruit punch, sweet tea and other sugar-sweetened drinks.
• Choose liquid oils for cooking instead of solid fats that can be high in saturated and trans fats. Remember that fats are high in calories.
• Cut back on high calorie snack foods and desserts like chips, cookies, cakes and full-fat ice cream.
• Eating too much of even healthful foods can lead to weight gain. Watch portion sizes.

Exercise. Try to exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The activity can be split into several short periods of 10 minutes each. Be sure to select an activity that you enjoy such as walking.

Stop smoking/using tobacco. The Penn Highlands Smoking Cessation Support Group meets every month on the fourth Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the DuBois Community Medical Building, 621 S. Main St., DuBois. It is free to attend and is sponsored by The Lung Center to provide help for those who wish to quit using tobacco or wish to remain tobacco free. Anyone unable to attend can call the PA Free Quit Line at 1-800-quit-now or 1-800-784-8669, or visit online at

Treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Follow the instructions from your primary care physician. If you don’t have a PCP, go to or make an appointment with the Family Medicine Continuity Clinic at 814-503-4305.

By making changes, people have been able to cut their chances of having type II diabetes by 58 percent, according to the American Diabetes Association.

For more information, call the Diabetes and Nutrition Wellness Center’s at 814-375-3890.