Georgia is located deep in the diabetes belt—an area that stretches across most of the South, where diabetes is more common than anywhere else in the United States. It’s estimated that one in seven Georgians have diabetes. In a healthy person, the pancreas automatically produces the right amount of insulin, a substance that allows cells to use the food we eat as fuel. When the body produces too little insulin or cells stop responding to it, a person can develop diabetes. People with diabetes have imbalanced amounts of glucose in the blood because cells can’t absorb it. “Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious health problems such as blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and damage to the nervous system,” says Guido H. Ring, M.D., Internal Medicine, on the medical staff at Crisp Regional Health Services who cares for people with diabetes. “Healthy activity levels and a healthy weight can help you manage Type 1 diabetes if you have it and avoid Type 2 diabetes.”
Type 1 diabetes has no known cause, but many of the risk factors that contribute to Type 2 diabetes may be avoidable if you make the right lifestyle choices. Though age and heredity do come into play, obesity and inactivity increase a person’s likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes. According to the Diabetes Prevention Program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, losing even a small amount of weight (between 5 and 7 percent of body weight) and being active at least 30 minutes a day five times a week can drastically reduce a person’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Make shedding the weight easier by breaking activity up into three, 10-minute sessions a day. Parking farther from your destination, taking the stairs, walking while you talk on the phone, or even just getting up to stretch or march in place for a few minutes every hour can add up.