Dear Heloise:

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, as well as of new blindness in people ages 20-74. It is also one of the fastest-growing diseases in the United States, and the leading cause of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations.

Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in childhood or adolescence and involves a relative lack of insulin, which regulates blood sugar. Type 2, which involves insulin resistance, is usually diagnosed in adults over the age of 45, and they tend to be overweight. Type 2 diabetes is now being diagnosed in children, due to the increase in childhood obesity. Given the current trends of obesity and lack of exercise, it is expected that the rate of diabetes may reach one out of every three Americans.

If you have diabetes, you can reduce your risk of complications by controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you don't have diabetes, you can reduce your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes by controlling your weight, avoiding refined sugars and starting an exercise plan with the help of your physician. In addition, if you smoke, stop, since smoking exacerbates many diseases, including diabetes.

To learn more about diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org, where you can get more facts and advice.

Michael Singer, ophthalmologist and diabetic retina specialist, San Antonio

I have recently learned from many health-care professionals that diabetes is predicted to reach pandemic status in the coming years. Folks, listen to the doctor -- it just might save your life, and limbs.

Dear Heloise:

Most prepaid cell-phone cards have a scratch-off section that reveals a special code. Rather than just using your fingernails or a coin, use a piece of tape. Just apply the tape over the desired area, rub and peel away. This also works on scratch-off lottery tickets.

Kevin

Portland, Ore.

We tested this in the office and had fun -- didn't win, though. The tape worked on some, but not others.

Dear Heloise:

A male friend shared this hint with me: He says he was always grateful that his wife had the forethought to have their wedding date engraved on the inside of his wedding ring. He knew where to look when trying to remember his anniversary date.

(And -- better yet -- he never forgot to bring home roses on the right day.)

Caitlin M.

Fullerton, Calif.

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com. Please include your city and state when faxing or using e-mail. I can't answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.

(c)2005, King Features Syndicate