“National Diabetes Month is an opportunity to raise awareness of this disease and its risk factors, as well as promote healthful living behaviors that can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes,” said Danielle Krueger, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program specialist and registered dietitian, Bryan-College Station.
Krueger said diabetes is a pervasive and costly disease that, while not curable, is manageable.
“Knowing whether or not you are at risk for diabetes or have prediabetes, nutritional and lifestyle changes can help you avoid developing Type 2 diabetes,” Krueger said.
Some symptoms of prediabetes include increased thirst, more frequent urination, fatigue, blurry vision and increased body weight, especially around the waist.
Diabetes a growing concern for Texas, U.S.
According to the American Diabetes Association, one in 10 Americans has diabetes and another 84 million are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. The national cost of diabetes is estimated to be about $245 billion.
In Texas, an estimated 2.84 million people — about 14% of the state’s population — have diabetes. Among these, about one-fourth are undiagnosed, which greatly increases their health risks. Another 6.8 million Texans have prediabetes, with blood glucose levels above the normal range but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. The annual cost of diabetes and prediabetes to the state is estimated at $23.7 billion.
Texas A&M AgriLife initiatives, programs to help address diabetes
“Making Texans and others aware of diabetes and what can be done to avoid or manage it is an important aspect of community health education,” said Rusty Hohlt, director of Healthy Texas for AgriLife Extension.
Hohlt said Healthy Texas combines the expertise of the Texas A&M Health Science Center with AgriLife Extension’s statewide network of agents, specialists and others to provide educational outreach on various health topics.
AgriLife Extension offers several other opportunities for people to learn the skills to more effectively manage the disease — or reduce the risk of developing it by means of better nutrition, exercise and blood-glucose monitoring. These include:
- Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes is a one-time fee, self-paced course, which dives deeper into understanding diabetes, how food affects blood glucose, how to make healthful choices, the basics of medicine, and incorporating foods into a healthy eating pattern and more.
- Cooking Well with Diabetes engages the community with hands-on food preparation to reinforce the practical nutritional applications of the self-care lesson series Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes.
“Nutrition and the food choices we make are important for diabetes management,” said David Leal, AgriLife Extension program specialist with Healthy Texas, Beeville. “Each meal we eat is an opportunity to at least partially manage glucose and reduce risk of complications like heart disease. And even relatively small amounts of weight loss, from 3-7% of total body weight, can lead to clinically significant reductions in blood sugar levels.”
- Diabetes 1st Step: Live Healthy, Be Hopeful is a free online, self-paced course on the basics of diabetes self-management. This course has been developed for those newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes or wanting to learn more about diabetes self-care.
- Sí, Yo Puedo Controlar Mí Diabetes! provides culturally relevant Type 2 diabetes self-management education for Hispanics/Latinos. The program seeks to educate, empower and equip participants to better control their diabetes through a real-world, practical approach. The program is also available in English.
- Wisdom, Power, Control provides evidence-based, culturally relevant Type 2 diabetes self-management education relevant to African Americans. Topics include diabetes self-care skills, improving eating habits and maintaining good nutrition, increasing physical activity, preventing diabetes complications, and improving quality of life while living with Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes education-related programs are offered periodically by AgriLife Extension offices throughout the state. To see if any are being offered in a specific county, contact the agency office in that county.
“With the COVID-19 situation, many of these programs have gone from in-person to virtual offerings,” Krueger said. “A number of our agents are currently conducting their scheduled programs via online platform, providing another opportunity for people to participate.”
Krueger also noted Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes, Cooking Well with Diabetes, and Diabetes 1st Step courses are also available online at any time so people may participate at their own pace whenever it is convenient for them. These courses and their costs can be found in the Family and Health section of the AgriLife Online Courses website.
On another front in the fight against diabetes, Texas A&M AgriLife Research food and nutrition researchers are studying the mechanism of the disease to determine how to decrease insulin resistance and the production of glucose – factors leading to the development of Type 2 diabetes.
For additional help, she said the American Diabetes Association has a Diabetes Support Directory online tool to help connect individuals with a qualified, ADA-approved diabetes support program in their area.
“Texas A&M AgriLife has a number of resources to help increase diabetes awareness as well as show those with diabetes or family members how they can have a better quality of life by making some basic lifestyle improvements,” Krueger said. “We hope Texans and others throughout the U.S. will use National Diabetes Month as a starting point for learning more about diabetes and how to manage it, especially if they have a family history of diabetes or think they might have prediabetes.”