Sharon Baucom-Myers, MD works as a Physician ll for Baltimore County Department of Health within the Bureau of Community Health and Chronic Disease Prevention. The board certified family practitioner discussed diabetes prevention that can apply to youth, adults, and families.
“Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects your body’s ability to convert sugar into energy. So, that means that there are several forms of the disease, but the two most common are called Type 1 and Type 2,” Baucom-Myers said.
According to the CDC, Type 1 diabetes entails the pancreas not making insulin or little of it. When a person is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, cells do not use insulin properly. The body cannot keep blood sugar at a normal level.
“Diagnosed cases of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are surging among youth in the United States. From 2001 to 2017, the number of people under age 20 living with Type 1 diabetes increased by 45%, and the number living with Type 2 diabetes grew by 95%,” the CDC also reported.
Baucom-Myers provided information about teaching our kids and redirecting ourselves to pay attention to diabetes prevention.
“There’s no doubt that we are not as mindful about what we put in our own mouth, or the mouth of our children as we should be. We know that there are food deserts, and food insecurity, in the sense of those choices. So, even with the limitations of the kinds of foods that we eat, how can we do it in a healthier way? If we teach our children, and if we arm our community with just basic options— MyPlate, the food portion size that defines how many carbs like bread; rice; candy; sugar; I mean, it doesn’t have to be so restrictive that people don’t think that they can have a cookie or a piece of cake. It’s mindfulness,” Baucom-Myers said, explaining how establishing healthier eating practices can make a positive difference.
The doctor also reminded that sugar is one of the most inflammatory things that we can put in our body.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting calories from added sugars to less than 10 percent of total calories per day.”
When individuals consume too much added sugars, meeting nutrient needs and staying within calorie limits can be difficult. The (FDA) also explained that the new Nutrition Facts label may assist with drawing comparisons to make better food choices and selecting foods that are lower in added sugars. Information about added sugars, and serving size information appearing with a bolded font, are two changes.
Baucom-Myers pointed out how important paying attention to sugar content is before eating.
“You’re only supposed to have 52 grams of sugar a day or less. One soft drink is 65 grams. So those little miniature cans that you see, that was the food industry trying to say, ‘Okay, we still want you to drink our product. We know doctors told you that you don’t need that sugary stuff, but we’ve now lowered the sugar content in these miniatures to less than 15 grams,’” Baucom-Myers explained.
She pointed out these are still wasted calories and reading labels is important. Even using microwaves too much can facilitate the consumption of processed foods that add fat to diets in the blood. It is easy to pop these meals in our mouths, then not exercise or walk. If a person has high blood pressure, blood vessels can be affected, clogging up a person’s heart, brain, and kidney vessels.
“And that’s why when we look at the diabetes that are linked with obesity, hypertension, and stroke, those three things are off the chart for people of color,” Baucom-Myers said.
When individuals do not consume enough fruits or vegetables, skipping them can contribute to health conditions like diabetes.
“The sugary foods that we substitute for fresh produce and fresh fruit contribute to increased levels of circulating blood sugar,” Baucom-Myers said.
Although unhealthier food options are cheaper, it draws concern. Income can be just one factor while considering a higher risk associated with Type 2 diabetes. The doctor mentioned studies connecting the disease to ethnicity, race, and income. If an exercise component is removed because it is not neighborhood friendly, weapons used to fight diabetes are reduced.
“If the Maryland residents whose household income was less than $15,000, had the highest proportion of prediabetes at 5.7% compared to other household income groups, it’s got to be the choices, right? Then, how many of them have communities where it’s safe to walk, or parks you feel safe to be in?” Baucom-Myers explained.
Solutions exist to support a loved one who has been diagnosed with diabetes. Baucom-Myers recommended planning meals together; attending a diabetes support group; being an exercise partner; knowing the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar; and offering to go with an individual to their doctor’s appointments. She cautioned against nagging but recommended staying positive.
“Learn as much as you can about disease,” Baucom-Myers said.
Please visit www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prediabetes.html to take a quick test to help determine if you may have prediabetes, or to determine more steps that can be taken to prevent the disease.