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Diabetes – are you at risk?

Recently, I attended a workshop on diabetes.  One of the handouts they gave was a short risk assessment quiz.  At 26, I didn’t think my risk would be very high. After taking the quiz, I realized that while I don’t have an official increased risk, I scored more points than I had anticipated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who have one or more of the risk factors below should talk with their doctor about getting their blood sugar tested:

  • Being overweight.
  • Being 45 years or older.
  • Family history of type 2 diabetes.
  • Being physically active less than 3 times a week.
  • Ever having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds.

Many people think it won’t happen to them, but the truth is more people are diagnosed with diabetes every day and at varying ages.  According to the CDC, more than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes and 86 million are living with prediabetes.

Many of us have heard over and over again to eat a healthy diet, but does that mean we do it? Theories show that one of the factors that triggers us to actually make a health behavior change, is believing we are susceptible to consequences of a disease and also believing that those consequences are severe.

At our workshop, a podiatrist spoke to us, specifically about limb loss from diabetes and he gave us some statistics.  Every 7 seconds someone dies from diabetes, every 17 someone is diagnosed, and every 20 someone is amputated. For me, these statistics hit home the very real consequences of diabetes when it isn’t managed properly.

You may say, “I don’t have diabetes, I don’t need to follow those recommended diets.”  In the words of the nutritionist who spoke at our workshop, “What is good for diabetes, is good for everyone!”

One of the dietary approaches currently recommended is the plate method.  You may wonder why I said “dietary approach”, instead of diet.  Dr. Brian Wansik said, “The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.”  In other words, you don’t want to think of it as a diet, but a lifestyle.  Changing habits is hard, but small, realistic, long term changes make a difference where a short term changes won’t.

The Plate method is simple and research has shown that it will reduce your A1C (your average blood sugar level over 2-3 months) by a little less than 1%.  On the plate method you take a 9 inch plate and divide it into quarters.  In each quarter you have a different type of food.

In the 1st quarter you should have a protein food, in the 2nd, a bread or grain food, in the 3rd quarter, a non-starchy vegetable, and in the 4th quarter, a starchy vegetable.  To reduce carbohydrates further, instead of eating a starchy vegetable, you can fill half your plate with non starchy vegetables.  If you lay your hand flat on your plate, that is about how high your food should be served to have appropriate portions.  Along with the plate is a portion of fruit and a glass of milk.

Another factor that makes us more likely to actually make a behavior change, is called a cue to action.  Cues to action can take the form of many things, a picture, a food record, a friend giving a friendly reminder, a recipe, or a newspaper article.  For today, I hope this article serves as your cue to action to consider a healthy habit change and to consider your own risk for diabetes.

To take the Type 2 Diabetes risk assessment go to or contact the UF/IFAS Jefferson County Extension office for a paper copy.