Watch Your Sugar!

Imagine having to watch what you eat every meal. What if the wrong decision was the difference between life and death. Some 24-million people in the U.S. find themselves in a similar situation, because they are living with diabetes. Tuesday is National Diabetes Awareness Day. It's a disease you can live with, but as Bill Stamps reports the key is prevention.
Georgeanne Smith remembers being rushed to the hospital when she was first diagnosed with diabetes.

"It was scary."

Since that trip to the emergency room eleven years ago, her she's had to change her eating habits.

"It just takes a little bit of planning. I have to make sure I eat on a schedule and I stay away from refined sugars."

Twenty-four million Americans have the diabetes and the rate has nearly doubled in the past ten years. Many people have it don't even know it. Type 2 Diabetes is the most common and it happens when the body is unable to properly use insulin to turn sugars and starches into energy. They still don't know what causes it, but a big factor is body fat.

"When you have all those fat cells, they hamper your body's ability to cope with sugar. And that's why you can see people, who are very heavy, who develop diabetes. If they're able to lose the weight, they so often lose diabetes. They don't have it anymore because they lose the weight."

Marlea Clark is editor of Prevention Magazine.

"It doesn't really happen that you go from being fine to being diabetic. You usually go through this period where your body is struggling to cope with the amount that you've got."

"I can have a cake, but I can't eat the icing."


Georgeanne admits she's struggled with her weight. But she still manages to keep her sugar count down by making smart choices.

She showed me how she checks her sugar level each day with a little hand held device.

"I have a glucose stick and I put it in a little machine. And now, I'm pricking my finger and putting a little drop of blood on the stick. And it's going to give me a read out, right now."

If the sugar level gets higher or lower than it should be, things could get ugly, and not just for Georgeanne.

"The people who work for me and work with me know that if I get real angry and kind of short-tempered they just give me this evil eye and say you need to eat something."

On the internet you'll find lots of testimonies from people who say the disease hasn't changed them much. That may be true, but experts say if you make smart eating decision and watch your weight, you probably won't have to worry about developing diabetes in the first place.

Bill Stamps, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.