Disarming a killer — diabetes — is within one's means

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Answer this riddle: One in three Americans will have this by 2050. Already, 215,000 Americans younger than 20 have it. Last year, 1.9 million Americans older than 20 were newly diagnosed with it and 10.9 million Americans 65 are afflicted with it.

What is it?

Diabetes.

Having diabetes means a person has too much glucose, a form of sugar the body produces from food, in the bloodstream. As the blood glucose level rises, the pancreas releases the hormone insulin. Insulin makes it possible for the cells to take in blood glucose and use it for energy or later use.

Diabetics, however, are unable to keep glucose levels in a normal range and the pancreas is unable to produce insulin the way it should.

One of the most staggering statistics is that 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes, a number greater than the population of the East Coast from Connecticut to Georgia.

People with the most common form of diabetes — Type 2 — almost always had pre-diabetes, where blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Research has shown that some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during pre-diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, .

This all means that a large portion of our country is either at risk for developing the disease or suffering from many of its complications, including nerve, kidney and eye disease; circulation problems and heart attacks and strokes; and even amputation.

Despite the risks and prevalence the disease, there are many ways a person can prevent, manage and even reverse diabetes. According to the ADA, 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.

Additionally, performing cardiovascular exercise, resistance training and monitoring nutrition can greatly reduce the amount of blood glucose throughout your system.

If you are concerned with your risk for developing diabetes, take the online diabetes risk test at bit.ly/11wjpLX. Also know that support groups and programs are a great way to obtain help.

The YMCA has a diabetic management program tailored specifically toward nutritional and exercise guidance. Providence St. Mary Medical Center and Walla Walla General Hospital also holds monthly support group meetings.

Theresa Osborne is an AmeriCorps volunteer at the Walla Walla YMCA who facilitates its diabetes program and exercise curriculum. She has a master’s in exercise science and several certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

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