Take Steps to Prevent Diabetes

November is Diabetes Awareness MonthHOUSTON – Diabetes can lead to serious health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and premature death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in 10 people in the United States have diabetes, and one in five are unaware of their condition. Additionally, 1 million people aged 18 and older are at risk of developing diabetes. Harris County Public Health (HCPH) urges the community to cultivate healthy habits to prevent and delay the onset of this widespread condition.

HCPH’s Leading Causes of Death in Harris County 2016-2020 report showed that 12% of Harris County community members have diabetes, higher than the national average of 10%. Diabetes affects the body’s ability to convert food into energy. It occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or can’t use it properly. This leads to excess sugar in the blood, eventually leading to serious health problems like heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

The three primary types of diabetes include:

  • Type 1: It is caused by an autoimmune reaction that damages the pancreas, which makes insulin. There is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, but it can be treated.
  • Type 2: More common than type 1 diabetes; this condition develops when the body cannot produce or use insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels.
  • Gestational diabetes: Similar to type 2 diabetes, this condition occurs during pregnancy.

Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S. Pre-diabetes, the most common type, can be alleviated through proven lifestyle changes. In addition to getting tested for diabetes, people can follow these steps:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Produce is high in fiber and helps slow down glucose absorption.
  • Incorporate 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. Exercise makes the body more sensitive to insulin, which regulates glucose in the blood.
  • Get an annual physical exam. An up-to-date health assessment is important for diabetes prevention.
  • Find a support system for accountability and encouragement. Maintaining healthy habits to prevent and delay the onset of diabetes can be easier with a loved one, friend, or colleague.

HCPH offers the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) to help qualifying residents with pre-diabetes reduce their risk for type 2 diabetes and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The DPP includes free classes by trained lifestyle coaches in English and Spanish. Classes focus on weight loss, food preparation, physical activity, heart health, and stress management.

HCPH’s Nutrition and Physical Activity (NPA) Program empowers and educates Harris County residents on ways to eat healthier and increase physical activity to help maintain a healthy weight. The team utilizes an evidence-based curriculum to provide optimal education to every age group.

HCPH’s Health and Wellness Clinics provide support to Harris County residents through routine physical exams, including screening for diabetes. Clinics throughout the county operate mobile pods where residents can access care.

For more information about the DPP, contact dpp@phs.hctx.net or call (713) 274-7167. For more information about the NPA Program, contact nutritionPHS@phs.hctx.net or call (713) 274-5711. To schedule an appointment for diabetes screening, call (832) 927-7350.

Visit the CDC’s diabetes page to learn more about diabetes.