November is Diabetes Awareness Month. It is a time for all of us to pay attention because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 88 million people in the U.S. have pre-diabetes.

Nutrition action steps for Diabetes Awareness Month

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month. It is a time for all of us to pay attention because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 88 million people in the U.S. have pre-diabetes; that is one in three adults. Another 34 million have diabetes, and of those, 90 percent are type 2 diabetes. Along with these stats, half of American adults have high blood pressure but only one-quarter of these are in good control of their blood pressure.

A recent Oxford University study published in the journal Nature Communications noted that there were small brain changes in people with either type 2 diabetes and/or with high blood pressure. The future risk for developing dementia is already high in both of these chronic disease groups so brain protection is important.

The neuroscientist researchers used brain scans in 22,000 study participants to evaluate the brain activity. They tested thinking speed and short term memory. They found that as blood pressure readings and glucose levels rose (meaning less control) there were negative changes in both the grey and white matter of the brain.

The researchers noted that control of high blood pressure and/or diabetes is so important because it keeps other body systems working well, including the brain. And as those diseases are out of control, there are brain changes right at that moment – not just later in life. The age group with the biggest brain changes in this study were the 44-69 year olds.

A reminder: the goals for control of high blood pressure and diabetes should be established with your health care provider. But usually the aim is for blood pressure readings to be 120 over 80 or less and the A1C reading for diabetes to be 7.0 ml/dL or less.

For both high blood pressure and diabetes, take prescribed medications and keep those doctor appointments. Lifestyle helpers will be a daily 30-minute walk, a good night of sleep, and reasonable food choices most of the time. Diet-wise that means sensible intake of carbohydrate foods for the glucose control, and watching the sodium intake = easy on the salt shaker and processed, pre-prepared foods.

Recipes to try:

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.