Diabetes Awareness Day promotes student health

The School of Public Health and Health Sciences and the School of Nursing are teaming up for the 2nd annual Diabetes Awareness Day on Tuesday, Nov. 30 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the Campus Center concourse.

The goals of the event are to increase campus and community awareness of the tremendous increase in the rates of obesity and diabetes, the role that inactivity and poor nutrition play in the scope of the problem, and the huge impact that increased physical activity and sound nutrition can have in preventing the disease. For students, the central focus is on how the four years of undergraduate life are a critical period that can maximize chances for a lifetime of good health or begin the slippery slope toward major health problems.

Students from the departments of Exercise Science and Nutrition, School of Nursing, Athletics and the Housing Services Wellness Center will be conducting nutrition demonstrations that include free healthy snacks, doing exercise step tests to estimate aerobic fitness, and teaching other students how to start making the small lifestyle changes that can greatly reduce their risk for diabetes. Campus athletes will be on hand to show how diabetes does not limit the ability to participate in sports at the highest level.

Currently, approximately 18 million Americans -- 7 percent of the population -- have diabetes. In addition to tripling the risks to develop heart disease, stroke and hypertension, diabetes is the leading
cause of adult blindness, end-stage kidney disease, and lower-limb amputation. The U.S. public health burden is $98 billion per year in direct and indirect costs. Type-2 diabetes (which accounts for 90 percent of all diabetes), is a disease that until recently was mainly associated with middle-aged and older individuals, but is growing at the fastest rate among teenagers and young adults. It is projected that more than 1 in 3 Americans born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes during their lifetime; the rates are expected to be even higher (greater than 50 percent for an African-American woman) among minority populations. The development of Type-2 diabetes is very strongly related to excess weight and a physically inactive lifestyle. In the modern American culture, the presence of both factors is all too common among every age group.

However, the risk of developing diabetes can be greatly reduced by increasing physical activity and adopting a healthier diet. Moreover, these changes do not have to be extreme. The American Diabetes Association employs a “Small Steps, Big Rewards" program to publicize that just 30 minutes of exercise four or five days per week can drastically reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Teaming physical activity with a healthier (not overly restrictive) diet can add to the benefits of exercise.

The campus community is invited to learn more about the relationships between exercise, nutrition and diabetes by stopping by the Diabetes Awareness Day events.

The event is being supported by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life, the Housing Services Wellness Center and several local businesses, including Atkins Farm, Gold’s Gym, Kinetics Adult Fitness and Ultimate Fitness.

For more information about Diabetes Awareness day, contact Barry Braun, assistant professor of Exercise Science, at bbraun@excsci.umass.edu. For more information about all aspects of diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association website (see link below).