November is National Diabetes Month, and in honor of this, Lake Regional Health System is raising awareness about diabetes prevention to support this month’s theme: Preventing Diabetes Is Within Your Reach.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, and it can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle choices. Before developing type 2 diabetes, most people have prediabetes, which means their blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough yet for a diabetes diagnosis. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, prediabetes is very common, and more than 88 million U.S. adults have it, though more than 84% of them don’t know they do.
“Many people don’t realize that it is possible to prevent type 2 diabetes by screening, early interventions and frequent follow-up with your health care providers,” said Wendy Castle, MPH, R.D., L.D., CDCES, Lake Regional Clinical Dietitians Diabetes Program Coordinator. “Type 2 diabetes is a serious, chronic health condition that can lead to other serious health issues such as heart disease, stroke, blindness and kidney failure. But research shows that healthy eating and exercise habits can significantly lower your risk of developing the disease.”
Know Your Risk
The most important step in prevention is understanding your risk factors. You may be at risk for type 2 diabetes if you:
- Are overweight or obese.
- Are 45 years old or over.
- Have a family history of diabetes.
- Are African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
- Have high blood pressure.
- Have a low level of HDL cholesterol or a high level of triglycerides.
- Have had gestational diabetes or had a baby weighing nine or more pounds.
- Are physically inactive.
- Have a history of heart disease or stroke.
- Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- Have acanthosis nigricans — dark, thick, velvety skin around your neck or armpits.
“If you think you are at risk for diabetes or prediabetes, talk to your primary care provider about a simple blood test to find out for sure,” Castle said.
Prevention Is Key
Healthy eating and regular physical activity are the best ways to prevent type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, losing just 5% to 7% of your starting weight also can be beneficial.
“It can be hard to make lifestyle changes, but know that small steps can make a big difference,” Castle said. “The trick to making changes stick is to make goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and with a time commitment. Saying ‘I want to eat more fruits and vegetables’ can be hard to measure over time. Instead, a better goal would be: I will fill half my plate with non-starchy fruits and vegetables for 75% of my meals this week.”
Prioritize movement. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity — which does not have to be done all at once — five days a week. Plus, try to sit less throughout the day. If you've been inactive, check with your health care provider about which activities are best for you. Start slowly and build up to your goal.
Eat healthy foods — but not too much. Lower your daily calorie intake by eating smaller portions. For example, fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits and just a quarter of it with a low-fat protein and the other quarter with whole grains. Choose low-fat foods that don't have a lot of sugar, salt or calories. Drink water instead of sweet beverages. Keep your taste buds happy: Use spices and herbs rather than salty, fatty and sugary condiments to flavor your food.
“If you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, you can take control, starting today,” Castle said. “Talk with your primary care provider about more ways to prevent this disease.”
Visit lakeregional.com/HealthLibrary for more information on diabetes, nutrition and exercise.