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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Teams with Chicago Bears Coach Lovie Smith in Diabetes Awareness Drive

Blue Cross drafts Lovie Smith to carry message that good lifestyle choices help prevent diabetes type 2

CHICAGO, March 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith believes the best offense is a good defense - in football and in preventing diabetes type 2. Sadly, he learned to be vigilant about diabetes in his own family. "Seeing my mother lose her eyesight at a young age motivates me quite a bit. I think about all the things Mom could have seen. She has never seen her grandkids. Eating right and exercise could have eliminated all that."

Diabetes type 2 is a metabolism problem in which the body has trouble turning sugar into energy. Since several Smith family members (two older siblings plus his mother) have the condition, he long ago viewed diabetes as the enemy. (Type 1 diabetes is tied to genetic abnormalities and is usually not preventable.) For his fight against type 2, Smith trains like a gladiator. He exercises regularly, keeps his weight in check, avoids stress (or at least as much as a pro football coach can!), controls carbohydrate intake, treats his high blood pressure, brings down "bad cholesterol" levels and no longer smokes. "I figure I'm next in line if I don't keep track of my health. Twice a year my doctor does a great job of screening for blood glucose and the other markers of diabetes."

Dr. Kim Reed, M.D., Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois' medical director, uses the same playbook as Smith when it comes to self-management of diabetes type 2. "People with diabetes should see their doctor at least twice a year and talk to their doctor about creating a diabetes care plan that includes their medications, regularly checking blood glucose, diet and exercise." You also need to know what you should do when your blood glucose level is too high or too low, he adds. Reed also stresses managing diabetes on a daily basis "because diabetes can damage blood vessels, heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves over time. Complications detected in earlier stages are usually more easily treated."

Smith's exercise, eating routines

Smith is a workout nut, but you don't have to maintain his regimen to get the benefits of regular physical activity. "I exercise six or seven days a week - usually getting up at 5:30 in the morning to do it." On Monday, Wednesday and Friday he does 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on an elliptical machine and 40 minutes of weight-training. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday I skip the weights and do an hour of cardio. On Sunday I usually do sit-ups and push-ups so I get at least some exercise." Although he likes going to restaurants and social gatherings, Smith tries to make good food choices there, too. "I think if you eat in moderation and the right things, you are going to be okay," he says. "At almost any restaurant there is some type of healthy food."

"Eating the right snacks is important because it keeps your metabolism going," Smith says. "I don't eat a lot of junk food. Since I don't diet, I give myself maybe one day a week when all my choices for eating are not healthy. But the rest of the time I'm pretty strict with what I eat." Reed of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois reminds you to always check with your doctor on the diet best for you.

It's hard to avoid stress in his profession, Smith says, but he does the best he can. "One outlet for stress is working out. That is a peaceful time to exert some energy and get away from pressure. Another is a steamy shower. One of the best purchases I've ever made is my home steam shower - it's the greatest thing for you, and peaceful, too." To cut stress, he also reads and, as a spiritual person, spends time each day "in the Word."

Diabetes statistics, prevention tips

About 23.6 million people in the United States have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), and more than 90 percent of those have type 2, says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Among people age 65 or older, the figure climbs to more than 20 percent. Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of U.S. deaths in 2006, reports the Centers for Disease Control, and a recent analysis of health records of 379,000 Canadians with type 2 diabetes finds people who are also at moderate or high risk of cardiovascular disease have life expectancies 18 years less than non-diabetics.

Keeping your glucose level close to normal helps prevent or delay the onset of complications. So does managing your cholesterol. Your goal should be keeping your "bad" cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) level less than 100 mg per dL (decileter) of blood. Studies of type 2 diabetes show an overwhelming majority of cases can be prevented by adopting a healthier lifestyle. The most well-known proof comes from the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a random control research study of 3,234 overweight and pre-diabetic people. Researchers wanted to know which of two treatments was better at preventing the onset of diabetes: modest weight loss and increased exercise or an oral diabetes drug. Participants age 60 and over on average lowered their risk of developing diabetes by 71 per cent by eating less and exercising a total of 150 minutes a week. The oral drug group, in comparison, registered a reduced risk of only 31 percent.

Other diabetes factors

Diabetes is not always caused entirely by lifestyle, says endocrinologist Renee Schickler, M.D., an endocrinologist who sees diabetes patients at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center and Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "We suspect diabetes is caused by a combination of obesity and sedentary lifestyle in people who are genetically susceptible." Aerobic exercise is particularly effective in glucose control, she says, because it has an "insulin-like effect," enhancing the uptake of glucose. "The problem is that diabetic patients usually start out with poor exercise potential. So it would be dangerous to take obese, sedentary people and make them suddenly start doing aerobic exercises." Therefore, a diabetic patient needs to be thoroughly evaluated medically to rule out coronary artery disease and other health problems that preclude activity.

"We want to get high blood sugar, blood pressure and elevated levels of 'bad' cholesterol under control before we start patients on an exercise program," Schickler says. "The next step is to get the patient to move more, particularly to walk more. I recommend patients who have the disease under control aim for aerobic and weight training for 30 minutes three times a week. I stress positive changes can occur with aerobic exercise. Sometimes, though, blood sugar may drop after exercise and you may even develop low blood sugar called hypoglycemia. The doctor then needs to tell you how to adjust your blood glucose before and after exercising."

With more than 7 million members, Blue Cross ( is the largest health insurance company in Illinois. Started in 1936, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is committed to promoting the health and wellness of its members and its communities through accessible, cost-effective, quality health care. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is a division of Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), a Mutual Legal Reserve Company. HCSC is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

SOURCE Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois - Health Care
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