Iowans who want to get fit and lose weight are joining a statewide initiative called “Lighten Up Iowa,” and a specialist in the state public-health department says some will enjoy an unexpected side benefit. Jackie Butler says there’s a proven link between overweight and diabetes. Butler says Iowa’s rate of obesity is skyrocketing, and she says you can see it matches the trend in how many diabetics the state has. She says the number of known diabetics continues to increase, and stresses that’s only people aware that they have the disease. There’s a “fairly large” population out there that has diabetes, and doesn’t know it. Borderline or incipient cases can be prevented, or people can delay the onset of diabetes, by following advice on a healthy lifestyle. Butler says there’s a big job educating people, and things like “Lighten Up Iowa” will help by encouraging people to keep down the fat and calories they eat, exercising and taking care of themselves. Butler, who’s an educator on diabetes with the state’s public-health agency, says there’s no single risk factor for getting diabetes. One risk factor is family history, but others are being overweight, having high blood pressure and not exercising. Another reason to tackle overweight and the diabetes it may lead to is that such conditions can be costly — and the cost of medical care is daunting for many Iowans. The rate of diabetes is higher in the elderly, and she points out we’re living longer. Many diabetics also appear among less educated people and those with low incomes and less likelihood of having healthcare coverage, people who often don’t take very good care of themselves. Butler says it’s a common problem to put off the annual checkup and the start of a personal fitness program, but many Iowans would benefit from it, in ways they might not even suspect.
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