Brooklyn doctor recommends lifestyle changes as National Diabetes Awareness Month comes to a close

Pexels/Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

November marks National Diabetes Awareness Month in the United States. A whopping 37.3 million Americans live with diabetes — that’s one in 10 — and the rate of diabetes in Brooklyn is slightly higher than that of New York as a whole.

With National Diabetes Awareness Month coming to a close, healthcare officials are urging Brooklynites to pay attention to their bodies, and take some precautions to avoid a diabetes diagnosis.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes, no matter the type, is a disease of chronic high blood sugar. The human body runs on glucose (another name for sugar), but when too much glucose circulates in the blood, it causes organ damage and ultimately death. Insulin is a hormone used by the body to regulate glucose levels. 

There are two main types of diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, insulin produced by the body is not effective at lowering blood sugar. type 1 diabetes, which usually develops in children, is an autoimmune disease that causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin. Type 1 diabetes cannot be predicted or prevented and is only treated by life-long insulin injections. 

“About 37 million, or 11% of Americans have diabetes,” said Dr. Yar Pye, family medicine specialist at Family Health Centers at NYU Langone and Section Chief. “New York City is comparable to the nation with 11% of New Yorkers having diabetes. Brooklyn is a little bit higher than New York City, at about 12%. That’s a really big hit for the healthcare expenditure and for the wellness of the person.”

Lifestyle changes and early prevention

Typically, type 2 diabetes can be treated by lifestyle changes, or even prevented altogether, according to Pye. One in three Americans are prediabetic, which means without intervention, the onset of type 2 diabetes is likely.

Like most diseases, your best bet at prevention and treatment is to eat right and exercise. And don’t assume that type of exercise doesn’t matter, cardio should be prioritized.

“The most effective exercise would be cardio or vigorous exercise,” said Pye. “We want them to have at least 30 minutes daily of cardio, most days. Once muscle mass is built, that will partly help regulate glucose.”

As for diet, preventing type 2 diabetes comes down to a conventional healthy diet. The CDC recommends Americans “include more non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, and green beans [into their diets]” as well as “fewer added sugars and refined grains, such as white bread, rice, and pasta with less than 2 grams of fiber per serving.”

They should also “focus on whole foods instead of highly processed foods as much as possible.”

To combat the slightly higher prevalence of diabetes in Brooklyn, new facilities have opened to help the community deal with the disease. Earlier this year, One Brooklyn Health opened a dedicated diabetes center in Crown Heights equipped with a comprehensive care team to treat and prevent diabetes in Brooklynites.