Opt for a healthier lifestyle
It’s true that some people are at greater risk for type 2 diabetes than others. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to prevent or delay it — even if you’re in a high-risk group.
Nor should people who already have diabetes throw their heads up in despair. There are many steps you can take to slow, or even reverse, progression of the disease and greatly reduce your risk for complications.
WHO’S AT RISK?
There are many factors that put people at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, some of which are under your control and some of which are not.
You are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes if you:
• Are 45 years or older.
• Have a sibling or a parent with type 2 diabetes.
• Are African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Alaskan Native or Pacific Islander.
• Have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or have given birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds.
Risk factors that may be under your control include not being physically active and/or being overweight.
If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes — a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes — you are at even higher risk for type 2 diabetes. There are steps you can and should take now to change your lifestyle in order to lower that risk.
WHAT TO DO
Many studies have shown that increasing physical activity levels, losing weight and making changes to your diet can lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes or delay its onset, helping to ward off dangerous complications, such as heart and kidney disease or nerve damage.
The longer you live with diabetes, the more damage it does to your body; so the longer you can keep it at bay, the better.
Steps you can take follow.
Add Physical Activity to Your Day
The Diabetes Prevention Program showed that people who made lifestyle changes, including getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week, were able to greatly reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Always consult your healthcare provider before choosing an exercise program. Some options to consider are walking, bike riding, swimming and dancing. Just be sure to find something you can do regularly, that fits with your lifestyle and fitness capabilities. Have a friend join you. The more you enjoy the activity, the better the chance you will stick with it.
You can also work greater amounts of movement into your daily routine. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park further away from a store than you need to. March in place while watching TV. Get up from your desk and stretch at least once an hour. Get off the bus or subway one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way home.
Lose Weight and Keep It Off
The Diabetes Prevention Program found that people who were able to lose five to seven percent of their body weight were most successful in reducing their risk for developing type 2 diabetes. For a 200-pound person, that translates to losing 10 to 14 pounds.
A Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) or nutritionist can help you develop an appropriate meal plan. The National Institutes of Health recommends getting started by taking simple steps such as reducing portion sizes, drinking water before a meal to reduce hunger, eating slowly to allow your brain to send signals to your stomach that is feels full, and sharing desserts with a friend or family member rather than eating one on your own.
Create Healthy Habits
A big part of maintaining good health is developing healthy habits. Are you skipping meals or eating too late at night? Are you grabbing unhealthy snacks because you missed lunch? Do you spend too much time being inactive because you’re too tired or bored?
Building healthy habits takes time and some discipline. But it will make you feel better in the long run. When making changes or adding something new to your routine, try adding just one new activity or change per week and sticking to it. Here are some things you can try:
• Eat more fruits and veggies. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables when you do your food shopping, and eat them as snacks (for example, grapes or carrots with hummus) as well as with meals (stir-fry a rainbow of colored peppers, broccoli, green beans and mushrooms).
• Be smart when eating out. Skip the fries and substitute a salad or fruit cup.
• Drink water instead of juice and soda.
• Use whole-grain bread and pasta instead of white bread and pasta.
• Keep healthy snacks, such as whole-grain crackers and nuts, within easy reach in the kitchen. Throw in some cranberry-raisins for sweetness and texture.
• Make a grocery list before going to the store to ensure you’re purchasing the elements of a healthy meal and not impulse-buying sweets and treats.
Lower Your Numbers
Don’t forget to have blood pressure and cholesterol levels tested as well as your blood glucose levels. People at risk for type 2 diabetes are also at risk for cardiovascular problems, which are more likely to occur if you have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol.
Luckily, many of the things you do to prevent diabetes also help to keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check. For example, having a healthful diet, losing weight and exercising more often will help keep all of your levels within the target range.
Join a Prevention Program
Don’t think you can do it on your own? Some people find it easier to make changes if they have the support of a more structured program.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed yearlong, structured programs to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes that can be taken in person or online. They are led by trained lifestyle coaches who help you work on eating more healthfully, reducing stress and working more physical activity into your life with support from others who share these goals.
To find a program near you or to learn how to take part online, visit: www.cdc.gov.