Take Charge of Your Health

Diet and exercise still the cornerstone of diabetes management

Oak Park, IL (June 5, 2012) — About 26 million people, or 8 percent of the U.S. population, have diabetes with nearly 2 million new cases every year. One in three people is at risk of developing the disease. The costs — $218 billion in 2007 — are only increasing.

“We have to take control of our health because medically we will not be able to treat this epidemic that’s ballooning in front of our eyes,” said Judy Carter, MD, medical director of the Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Care at Rush Oak Park Hospital.

About 60 people came to hear Dr. Carter speak at a diabetes education program offered by Rush Oak Park Hospital on May 23. Her main message: “I exhort you all to do what you can with diet and exercise. You have the power to make some meaningful changes.”

Diabetes is irreversible. Left uncontrolled, it can lead to devastating and costly complications. Damage to the small and large blood vessels can result in blindness, kidney failure, neuropathy, heart disease and stroke. These complications are not only difficult and painful but extremely costly to treat.

Diet and exercise, by comparison, are relatively cheap.

“It’s hard to diet. It’s hard to exercise. We’re human,” Dr. Carter said. “But these are the things that we have control of and they are the cornerstone of diabetes management.”

Type 2 diabetes accounts for 95 percent of cases in the United States. Whether a person has it or is at risk for it — 79 million Americans have prediabetes, a condition that puts you at increased risk for type 2 diabetes — Dr. Carter said the power to take charge of health rests with the individual. “The doctor and health care professionals can advise you but you’re the one who’s going to be doing the work,” she said. “The more you understand why you’re doing it, the more likely you are to do it.”

Changes such as increasing physical activity to 150 minutes per week and losing just 5 percent to 7 percent of body weight can make a significant difference in reducing the incidence of diabetes. Dr. Carter stressed the importance of and need for more community programs that focus on self-education and behavior modification, and provide the structure and group support needed to make successful and lasting lifestyle changes. “We need to get more diabetes education and prevention programs in our communities because we’ve seen that they can work and that we can stop this epidemic or at least slow it down,” she said.

If you want to take charge of your health and start making lasting lifestyle changes today, you can learn more about the diabetes education classes and about the free prediabetes education and prevention program, Project Lifestyle Change, at Rush Oak Park Hospital by visiting or calling the Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Care at 708-660-5900.