Timing is everything… Just in time to breathe new life into January’s waning resolutions, the Defeat Diabetes Foundation (DDF) is hoping to use the entire month of April to jumpstart our goals about living a healthier lifestyle. Literally one day at a time.
For an entire month of April, the DDF is challenging parents and children alike to adopt healthier behaviors. It is well known that it takes roughly a month (21-28 days to be exact) to establish a habit. With that hope in mind, each day brings a new recipe, activity and/or idea to encourage parents and children alike to turn healthy habits into healthy lifestyles.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25.8 million people, or 8.3% of the U.S. population, are affected by either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Considering that approximately 215,000 of this population are children under the age of 20 and the fact that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, it is important to make healthy eating a priority. For everyone.
Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes, is usually diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults. In this form of diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas no longer make insulin because the body’s immune system has attacked and destroyed them. Although currently incurable, maintaining healthy eating habits is vital to managing health and blood sugars, as well as preventing complications down the road.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Although usually referred to as “Adult Onset Diabetes,” people can develop it at any age, even during childhood. This form of diabetes, the pancreas loses the ability to secrete enough insulin in response to meals. While genetics do play a part in the diagnosis, type 2 diabetes can be prevented or prolonged by establishing healthy eating habits. In some cases, it can be reversed after diagnosis by focusing on diet and exercise.
A new case of diabetes is diagnosed every 30 seconds in the United States and it is believed that there are nearly 7 million undiagnosed diabetics in the U.S. today. The DDF is hoping to change these statistics. They are using the entire month of April to focus on prevention, management and early identification. Here are a few examples of the DDF’s suggested calendar of healthy activities:
- April 1 – No Fool’s Day. Commit to taking Defeat Diabetes Challenges by participating in the full month of activities. Take the pledge and post it on your refrigerator as a reminder. Be sure to invite family and friends. Extra Bonus: Take the Screening Test to determine your risk for developing diabetes.
- April 5 – Destress Today – Recent studies conducted by Carnegie Mellon University have concluded that stress can cause ill health when it is chronic. The signs of stress will not only show up in your body as physical symptoms such as more frequent colds, injuries, relationship problems, depression, insomnia and more. Earlier studies from other sources indicated that as much as 75% of doctor’s visits are related to stress.
- April 10 – Try a New Physical Activity- There are literally hundreds of physical activities and sports that individuals can participate in no matter how large or small the community. This Saturday try something you haven’t done before or revisit something that you’ve tried in the past. There are hundred’s of choices including bowling, going to the batting cage, disc golf, playing Frisbee, kayaking, yoga or even household chores.
- April 17 – Visit a Farmer’s Market – Fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. And a local farmer’s market provides an important link between your community and fresh food sources. Come visit locally grown produce at its best at one of the many local markets in San Diego.
- April 18 – Take a Trip to the Zoo Animal Park or Aquarium. Today’s zoos and aquariums play a vital role in the conservation of endangered species. Not only will you get some great exercise walking around looking at the exhibits, but spring is also the perfect time to check out all the cute baby animals. San Diego is home to the world famous San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park and Sea World.
- April 22 – Beach Clean Up on Earth Day – Go for a walk along the beach and pick up trash along the way. Not only it is a good way to get fresh air and exercise for you, but it also is helping our planet and environement. Extra Bonus: An Outdoor Scavenger Hunt is a great way to explore the great outdoors, spend some time with family and friends, and get some exercise and sunshine. Whether it’s a city, county, state or national park; the beach; a local river or even the local playground – it’s an opportunity to get more in touch with the world around you.
- April 25 – Unplug from Video This Week. Between television, computer use, video game playing and hundreds of mobile applications, today’s children spend way too much time staring at a video screen. This week, pledge to cut out television viewing and video game playing, use computers for only necessary work or school related projects and get outside! Don’t think too much video is a problem? Then, use this log for your family for a week to determine how much time they are spending in front of a video screen. Learn tips on how to reduce screen time.
- April 28 – Practice Portion Control – Portion size is one area where we go wrong when making eating choices. Part of the reason behind this is the fact that Americans eat nearly 75% of their meals outside the home. Since food is actually the lowest cost on many restaurants’ overhead, many restaurants use overly generous portions to make their customers happy. Ask for a nutritional content menu to help allow you to make healthy choices and select the proper portion size for your family.
- April 30 – Plant a Tree Day on Arbor Day – Trees are wonderful for our environment: they create green and shady spaces, help clean our atmosphere and, if properly selected, can also provide us with blossoms in the spring and fruit in the summer or fall. If planting for Arbor Day or any other time please consider planting a fruit tree. Next April, you just might be enjoying your own healthy snack – a perfect choice for defeating diabetes.
Visit the Defeat Diabetes Foundation Website for a full list of calendar activities. Even by participating in one event, you will be making a small step to improving your health and defeating diabetes within your community.
In my house, diabetes took on a new meaning when my oldest son was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis Related Diabetes, a common complication of cystic fibrosis. Similar to both type 1 and type 2, Sean now has to watch his food intake, carefully balancing his food groups to maintain his health. Because of the combination of the two diseases, Sean now adheres to a high-fat, high-calorie, high-sodium, high-protein, low-sugar diet of a required minimum of 3,000 calories a day. He also injects himself with insulin every time to regulate his blood sugar levels. Initially, the enormity and complexity of his diet seemed overwhelming. However, broken down into small segments, it became very manageable. Obviously, proteins have becoming increasingly important to his diet. Reducing sugar also became a major priority. However, that doesn’t mean that he can’t enjoy a treat now and then. Life is too short not to enjoy all life has to offer. Moderation has become our saving grace. Like with anything else, small indulgences and transgression are okay. It is what you do in the majority of our daily activities and meals that really matters. The key is taking it one day at a time.
And that has been the biggest “take away” for us throughout this past year. Ironically enough, Sean was forced to take on more health responsibilities at a time in which he is naturally starting to assert his own independence. Sean was diagnosed with diabetes just a few months after turning 13. As a teenager, he is no longer with me 24 hours of the day. He makes his own lunch, purchases some of his meals with friends away from home and is responsible for budgeting his time. It is now up to him to make the bulk of his decisions about diet, forms of exercise, amounts of exercise and other daily activities. Yet, because of his diabetes, he is now forced to truly consider the best choices in terms of his overall health. Did he eat enough protein with his meal? Did he balance it out with enough whole grains? Did he eat enough to sustain his energy levels? How much did he exercise? Does he need more sleep? These are all questions that he is starting to ask himself. Or at least ones that he needs to consider on an increasing scale. And with each good choice, he moves himself one step closer to becoming the person he wants to become. He knows that good health, good choices and good eating habits are the stepping stones to achieve all the goals he has made for himself. And while some might look at diabetes as an obstacle; we are hoping Sean will regard it as a learning tool. Instead of wasting his teenage years as a time in which he can eat and do whatever he wants, Sean must constantly and actively make choices that are healthy and life sustaining. We are hopeful that Sean will live a happier, healthier and more productive life because of the habits he is now being compelled to form. And, as his parents, we are grateful for that. Once again, timing is indeed everything