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Summer Sweets Can Contribute To Risky Blood Sugar

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When daily high temperatures creep toward humid triple digits, cold sugary treats are among the most universal pleasures in life, but habit can turn a special pleasure into a serious health problem.

The 2018 Sauk Prairie Healthcare Community Health Needs Assessment has highlighted diabetes prevention and treatment as a public health priority in the county. An estimated one-in-ten Sauk County adults have the condition, with many remaining undiagnosed.

Diabetes is a failure in the body to reliably break down sugars, increasing blood sugar levels, starving cells and resulting in a host of unpleasant and in some cases dangerous side effects. There are two kinds of diabetes type-1 is an autoimmune disease that often becomes apparent in childhood, while type-2 — over 90 percent of cases — is the result of habits in diet and lifestyle.

Although, over time, excess calories from any source can contribute to type-2 diabetes, foods (and drinks) high in sugar (and added sugar) are often an area of first focus when trying to decrease risk of diabetes.

On hot days it is important to stay hydrated, but some drinks are much better at this than others. Sports drinks and soda may provide a steady stream of undesirable calories. Water, or another no-sugar beverage, is almost always the best choice for providing what the body needs after dealing with heat and exertion. Some sugary drinks, many with "-ade" as part of the name, are marketed on the premise of replenishing "electrolytes" lost when you sweat. For competitive athletes, this may be very beneficial. For the rest of us, sugar calories consumed through fluids do not leave us feeling full like we would after eating solid food. This means that we are taking in extra calories when we don't need them, and often in high amounts.

Reaching for a sugary drink has become a not-so-healthy habit for many. When they also include caffeine, this can also be physically habit-forming in terms of developing a dependence. Though not necessarily to the level of true drug addiction, it can still be harmful and difficult to break a cycle of high sugar/caffeine consumption due to the lethargy and headaches that may ensue. Often, the symptoms of "withdrawal" are more easily remedied with a quick boost of soda than waiting for caffeine to leave the system and energy levels to naturally balance out.

Over time those calories can also become a burden that may be much harder to lose. Leaving all other diet and physical activity the same, adding a can of soda each day will amount to about five pounds of weight gain each year, according to one 2011 estimate by the British National Institute of Health.

A combination of imbalanced nutrition and lack of physical activity can lead to increased blood sugar that precedes a diabetes diagnosis. This is what is referred to as prediabetes. According to the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention one in three American adults has prediabetes and about 90 percent are unaware of their situation. Why is this a big deal? Once identified with prediabetses, most risk developing type-2 diabetes within the next five years.

Among those at a greater risk of prediabetes symptoms and type-2 diabetes are people who are:

  • Overweight
  • 45 years of age or older
  • Have a parent or sibling with type-2 diabetes
  • Physically active fewer than three times per week
  • Had diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes)

Despite prediabetes being a widespread condition, it is also reversible. For many, relatively modest changes in diet and activity can result in blood sugar levels returning to normal. But as many of us know, making modest lifestyle changes and maintaining long-term healthy habits can both be a big challenge.

Sauk Prairie Healthcare hosts the Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Change Program, which includes a series of health education courses that will help you develop and maintain healthy real-world habits like what to look for when shopping at the grocery store. Participants support one another in lifestyle changes, guided by dietitians, diabetes educators and health coaches.

If you have risk factors of prediabetes, a free informational meeting is being held at Wellspring at 90 Oak Street in Prairie du Sac on Sept. 5, at 5 p.m. More info is available at our Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Change Program page or call 608-643-7648.