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Published November 23. 2012 05:02PM

As Americans continue to gain weight, the nation's battle with diabetes, the chronic disease that affects the way your body uses food for energy, is reaching epidemic proportions.

That was a major finding in a new report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, it's not the kind of news many of us like to hear entering a holiday season, traditionally a time when calorie counting and good nutrition are often placed on the back burner of personal eating habits.

If the nationwide trend continues, the CDC says as many as one in three U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050. The latest study broke down the nationwide increase on a state level. In the South and Southwest, rates more than doubled and in some cases, tripled.

It was no surprise to health experts that Mississippi, which has the largest proportion of residents who are obese, also has the highest diabetes rate. Among other southern states, Alabama's rate rose by 11 percent, Oklahoma and Georgia by about 10 percent, and Kentucky by more than 9 percent.

Linda Geiss, lead author of the report, says the rise in diabetes goes hand in hand with the rise in obesity.

The obesity-diabetes connection was also supported in a letter that appeared in a recent letter to the TIMES NEWS by Daelene Long, senior director of clinical operations for Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Long pointed out that one in 10 Pennsylvania adults has diabetes and that Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90 percent of the cases nationwide, has been increasing at a rapid rate along with the rise in obesity. Age, family history, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and physical inactivity are other risk factors for this type of diabetes.

Thankfully, research has shown that type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented through basic lifestyle changes, including modest weight loss and regular exercise. These interventions were able to slash Type 2 diabetes risk in people with pre-diabetes conditions by 58 percent over three years.

Local residents are not alone in their battle against the chronic disease. Health professionals from St. Luke's Miners Campus as well as Blue Mountain Health System have offered classes to counsel and bring awareness.

BMHS recently completed a series of training classes on Diabetes Self Management at the Palmerton campus. The course covered meal planning, exercise and basics of monitoring your blood sugar, and changing behaviors, including stress and coping.

In August, the fifth annual Palmerton 5K for Diabetes run raised $2,600 for the American Diabetes Association. Smaller events, such as the walk in Palmerton, have also raised support for research, education, and community awareness.

With feasting and snacking so much of the holiday party tradition, this is certainly a tempting time of year for Americans. But avoiding that pastry table is just one part of the solution.

Maintaining a healthy weight through an active lifestyle also helps point us in the right direction.

By Jim Zbick

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