According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 79 million Americans over age 20 are prediabetic, or at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. If you are prediabetic, you are also at a higher risk of heart attack or stroke. However, having an increased risk for diabetes doesn’t have to be a life sentence. It’s possible to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes, even if you’re at a high risk or have been diagnosed with prediabetes.
You have an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, or prediabetes if you are overweight or physically inactive, have a first-degree relative with diabetes, a prior history of gestational diabetes, abnormal cholesterol or glucose levels, or high blood pressure. Prediabetes occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but are under the diabetic level.
If you’re at a high risk or are already at the prediabetes stage, prevention of Type 2 diabetes has been proven, and it doesn’t require killing yourself at the gym every night. It does, however, require dedication and small lifestyle changes. The National Diabetes Education and Prevention Program (NDEPP) recommends losing weight and maintaining an active lifestyle as two key components in preventing this common disease.
According to a study conducted for the NDEPP, losing just five to seven percent of your body weight can help you to reduce your risk of acquiring diabetes. This can be accomplished by making healthful eating choices. Here are just a few tips to get started:
• Track your calorie intake – Try jotting down everything you eat each day. Many free apps make this easy to do with your smartphone. Check out MyFitnessPal or Livestrong’s calorie counter.
• Choose fresh fruits and vegetables – They say if your food can go bad, then it’s good for you. Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables and explore different ways of preparing this food group (you might enjoy roasted broccoli versus steamed broccoli). Farmer’s market are now open here in coastal Virginia so you can purchase some of these fruits and veggies from local farmers.
• Eliminate temptation – Out of sight, out of mind, right? Resist the urge to purchase snacks like cookies and chips at the grocery store. If they’re not stashed in your cupboard or office, you’re more likely to eat a healthful snack instead.
• Pack your lunch – It’s easy to order a meal that’s high in calories and fat while you’re out to eat, and it’s even easier to do so if you’re at the nearest fast food chain. Plan a variety of lunches for the week that include whole grain breads, lean meats, like turkey, and crunchy snacks, like carrot sticks and celery.
Along with weight loss, the study also found that staying active for 30 minutes at least five days a week can reduce your risk of acquiring diabetes. The activity doesn’t have to be done all at once; try exercising in ten minute increments throughout the day to total 30 minutes or more. Some other ideas include:
• Dress for success – Purchase a few new pieces of exercise gear—whether it is new running or walking shoes, new weights or a nice pair of shorts. Research shows those who are excited to use or wear new fitness gear have a tendency to follow through with exercising.
• Take a walk break – Bring walking shoes with you to work and use your lunch break to take a brisk walk.
• Track your steps – A pedometer, or trendy devices such as the FitBit®, make it easy to track steps. This habit can motivate you to find opportunities for more movement in order to beat the previous day’s step total.
• Build exercise into your schedule – Schedule your exercise like a meeting and put it on your calendar. That way you’ve already blocked off the time for it. For extra motivation, add it to your friends’ calendars as well.
Although these tips are aimed at helping you reduce your risk of diabetes—everyone can benefit from them.
For more information, useful advice, and a full plan for diabetes prevention and management, visit ndep.nih.gov.
Terry Lumber, RN, CNS, MSN, CDE, BC-ADM, FAADE, is the diabetes and nutrition coordinator at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center’s Lifestyle Center. The Lifestyle Center will offer new prediabetes classes starting this month. Attendees will learn how to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. For more information or to register, call 757-312-6132.