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Baby Boomers and Diabetes

Author: Lisa Manna
Source: WBay News, May 19, 2006 05:40 PM EDT

We’re talking about an incurable disease that for many could be simple to prevent. But in this Age of Prevention, Baby Boomers can make sure they don’t become one of the 20 million people in the U.S. with diabetes.

Eat right and exercise. It’s advice we’ve heard a lot for Baby Boomers but experts say it really is that simple when it comes to diabetes.

“They knew that they should do something but they didn’t do it, and now they have diabetes and now they’re facing some serious lifestyle changes,” says Cindy Pelnar, a registered dietician with St. Mary’s Hospital in Green Bay.

Diabetes means your blood sugar is too high and your body can’t regulate it.

Pelnar says in the long term, a person with high blood sugar can suffer “cardiac disease, vision problems sometimes even loss of vision, loss of kidney function, circulatory problems — where we often hear of people losing their toes or legs or whatever.”

The symptoms are excessive thirst, having to go to the bathroom a lot, and sleepiness.

“They’re not really dramatic symptoms,” Pelnar notes, “and that’s why so many people go years undiagnosed with diabetes. Something like 21 million have diabetes but a third don’t know it.”

A simple blood test can tell you if you have the disease.

“When I think about the Baby Boomers, our metabolism slows down as we get older and we have a tendency to put on weight as we get to be about that age, so that’s a big risk factor. That’s what’s increasing the risk at that 40, 50, 60 age level,”

In addition to weight and age, if you have an immediate family member with diabetes or if you’re a woman who’s had a baby weighing more than nine pounds, those factors also put you at risk.