Diabetes? No thanks.

This week marked “Diabetes Alert Day,” by the American Diabetes Association, and joined by New Mexico’s health department.

There is an online Diabetes Risk Test which I took for funzies this week. It ranked me as “high risk” for Type 2 Diabetes due to my age and weight. It probably would have added a point if it had offered me something other than a binary choice for ethnicity, but it didn’t.

A large part of my motivation in exercise comes from my desire to avoid diabetes. So what the heck is diabetes, anyway?

There are two types; one that people are born with, and another, which used to be called “adult onset” diabetes. The name was changed because this type of diabetes has become very common among children.

Only about 5 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1, but that amounts to about 1.25 million Americans, according to the American Diabetes Association. Nearly 10 percent of the overall population of the nation has diabetes, and I’d be willing to wager that number is higher in New Mexico because of our large Hispanic and Native populations. Both groups are at higher risk for diabetes than the population at large.

Type 2 Diabetes is caused over time, as our bodies build up insulin resistance. Of the 29 million cases in the U.S. reported by the ADA for 2012, that organization says 8.1 million of them were undiagnosed.

Broken down by ethnicity nationwide, 7.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites are diabetic; 9 percent for Asians; 12.8 percent for Hispanics; 13.2 percent for non-Hispanic blacks; and 15.9 percent for Native Americans. In my own lineage there are two of the highest-risk groups.

Diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States in 2010, and complications include heart attack, stroke, blindness, amputations, high blood pressure and more.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 86 million Americans have “prediabetes,” and nine out of 10 of those people don’t know it. The ADA says without weight loss and moderate physical activity, 15 to 30 percent of those will develop Type 2 Diabetes within five years.

Don’t even get me started on the cost of medications and the risk of death rates for diabetics, which is 50 percent higher than adults without diabetes.

In short, diabetes is very serious, and I really don’t want to develop it. So if a person, like me, takes the test and discovers an elevated risk for diabetes, what can we do?

The good news is that the answer is simple and straightforward.

The bad news is that the answer is difficult to implement—at least it has been so far for me.

To prevent or delay Type 2, the ADA’s advice is: “lose weight, eat healthy, and be more active.”

Research is changing the conversation all the time. When I started, fat was the enemy, right up there with sugar. While the ADA’s website still has cutting calories as its top dietary priority, and would have people limit fatty meat, fried foods, whole milk and products made from whole milk, along with cake and candy and other items. No. 1 on its list of what to eat is fiber, starting with whole grains and adding lots of veggies.

The American Diabetes Association also suggests eating fewer foods high in sugar, with juices and sodas topping that list.

All of that dietary stuff follows my own natural inclination—cake aside, but cake is a whole special category in my mind—toward whole foods, cooked from scratch. I’ve never been much of a soda drinker and I gave up most juice years ago also.

Being physically active I believe is just as important, but it does not get the emphasis that diet does on the ADA website, which recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise; it suggests short workouts more often as more effective than longer workouts less frequently.

The bottom line is get your booty moving, in whatever way works best for you, and eat real food. I’m on it.

To take the risk factor quiz, you can find it on Facebook at /nmdoh, or go straight to diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/diabetes-risk-test/.

Are you diabetic or prediabetic? How are you managing? You can reach me at leota@lobo.net or 505-286-1212, or by joining the conversation on Facebook by searching for my group, “I’m Losing It!” I’d love to hear from you.