Join us in saluting “The Original Americans” for their spirit, strength and determination to survive.  We spotlight “Controlling Diabetes” in our Native American Channel as key to their living longer lives.
 
Did you know that Native Americans, or American Indians, are more than twice as likely to develop diabetes as the rest of the U.S. population?  However, the good news is that you can work to prevent diabetes and its many health complications through reasonable lifestyle changes.  Type 2 diabetes, which is the most common type of diabetes, occurs although the body makes enough insulin, the body doesn’t use it properly.
 
Over 16% of American Indians and Alaska Natives who are 20 years and older have been diagnosed with diabetes.  The disease can lead to health problems like heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and amputation.  Type 1 diabetes, where the body doesn’t make insulin, or doesn’t make enough, is rare among Native Americans.
 
What conditions make people more likely to get diabetes?  Well, just having an American Indian family background – especially a parent, brother of sister with diabetes.  Another risk factor is being overweight.  The extra pounds can keep your body from making and using insulin properly.  It can also cause high blood pressure. That’s why every pound you lose lowers your risk of getting diabetes.
 
Your number one priority should be reaching and maintaining a reasonable body weight.  And the best way to do that is by making wise choices about eating and exercising.  Here is some good advice from health experts on how to shed pounds if you’re overweight?
 
   – Avoid crash diets. Instead, eat smaller servings of the foods you usually eat, and limit the amount of fat you eat. Sensible portions, for example, would be 3 ounces of meat, chicken, turkey or fish; one cup of cooked vegetables; and one-half cup of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn or pinto beans.
   – Cook with less fat. For example, instead of frying chicken, bake, roast or grill it.
   – Set a reasonable weight-loss goal, such as losing a pound a week.
   – Keep a record of what you eat and drink.  Experience shows that people who keep careful records are more successful in losing weight.
   – When you reach your weight loss goal, give yourself a reward, like a movie or something else you enjoy.
 
When it comes to exercise, here are some tips that can put you on the right track:
 
   – Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
   – Do something you enjoy, like walking with a friend, because walking is a great way to get exercise.
   – If you are not active, after checking with your doctor, health center or clinic, start an exercise program that builds up slowly.
   – Be active every day.  For example, walk to the store, work in the yard, or clean the house….instead of watching TV or just sitting around.
 
The important thing to remember is that small steps can lead to big rewards.  If you set your mind to improving your eating and exercise habits, and follow your plan, your chances of developing diabetes will drop as a result.  Also, if you’re over 45 years old, you should consider getting tested for diabetes.  Even if you’re younger than 45 but overweight, or have other risk factors, getting a diabetes test is still strongly recommended.
 
Click here to go to Health Power’s main Diabetes Section, where there is much more information on diabetes. Also visit our Food and Fitness Channel where you will find more Healthy and Delicious Recipes, and Tip Sheets for Healthy Eating and Exercise Tip Sheets.