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Monthly Health Topics

This Thanksgiving, Take Charge of Your Health

This Thanksgiving, Take Charge of Your Health

By George Hulse

Later this month, most of us will gather with our loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving. Despite the shorter days and the colder weather, this is one of my favorite times of the year, because it means we get to come together and enjoy meals with family. During all this celebrating, our health isn’t always our top priority.

Now, I certainly don’t want to discourage you from enjoying your favorite holiday foods, because if there is one time during the year when it’s okay to indulge a little, Thanksgiving is it. But I do want to encourage you to keep your health in mind and to try adding some healthy foods like fresh vegetables and fruits to your plate as well.

November also happens to be American Diabetes Month, which is part of the reason I want to talk about eating healthy. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) estimates that 30 million people in the United States have diabetes—that’s about one in every 10 Americans. This is obviously a lot of people, which is why diabetes is such an important health issue. But the prevalence of diabetes is especially critical for our communities because the disease impacts people of color in greater numbers than it does the American public at large.

One surprising statistic I learned recently was that about one in four people who have diabetes is unaware of having the disease. That’s because the symptoms of diabetes are sometimes so mild that it’s hard to tell whether anything’s wrong. Another thing that surprised me was how common it is for people to have prediabetes—high blood sugar that puts them at risk of eventually developing diabetes. The ADA believes there are about 86 million people with prediabetes.

If you haven’t been tested for diabetes, speak with your doctor. He or she might recommend a blood test to determine your blood sugar level. If your blood sugar is high, you might have diabetes or prediabetes. If you have prediabetes, the good news is that it’s often possible to reverse or delay the disease by making simple lifestyle changes, like eating healthy and getting exercise. Even if you have diabetes, diet and exercise will help your overall health and can prevent your diabetes from getting worse.

So when you celebrate Thanksgiving later this month, be sure to add plenty of colorful vegetables to your plate, and don’t overdo it on the desserts. And if you find yourself getting sleepy after the big meal, a great way to feel energized is to get moving—take a quick walk about the block. These simple changes will make you feel better and will make a big difference in your health. Then you can be thankful to yourself for taking charge of your health.

George Hulse is Vice President of External Affairs at Healthfirst. For more tips on leading a healthier lifestyle, visit www.healthfirst.org.

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