Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

by Alice Willlard-Michaels, RN, CDE

Alice Willlard-MichaelsThere are currently an estimated 21 million Americans living with Type 2 diabetes. There are an additional 41 million adults aged 40-74 with pre-diabetes, a condition where blood sugar levels are above normal but not high enough to be characterized as diabetes.

Why is the incidence of diabetes and pre-diabetes at epidemic levels and how can people reduce their risk of developing either condition? American children, adolescents, and adults have increasingly become overweight and have adopted more sedentary lifestyles. Diabetes is a serious disease that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, limb amputation, kidney and nerve disease and dental problems. But, good news, diabetes is a manageable disease, and a recent Diabetes Prevention Program Study showed that people with pre-diabetes can avoid development of diabetes with simple changes in their diet and by increasing their physical activity to at least 30 minutes a day. With increased physical activity and a 5-10% weight loss, the study demonstrated a 58% reduction in diabetes.

Whether you have high blood sugar or not, you can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes with these easy steps. First find a form of physical activity that you enjoy and can continue year round. Just be sure to check with your physician before starting any exercise program. Exercise does not have to be costly, and can include walking, dancing, working in the yard, swimming, biking, or using a stationery bike. Get an additional boost from parking the car further away when shopping and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Consider using a pedometer to track the number of steps you are taking in a day. A good goal is 10,000 steps. But always start with small achievable goals which take into consideration what is realistic for you. People are more apt to stay with an exercise program with reasonable expectations. You can choose to do all of your exercise at once, or break it down into segments throughout the day. Don't be discouraged and stick with it. Beyond reducing diabetes risk, exercise can also improve mood, sleep, muscle tone, energy levels and reduce the risk of injury and disease.

Also, in order to achieve a healthy weight and reduce blood sugar levels, you should eat a diet rich with complex carbohydrates, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and small portions of monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and nuts. While many Americans may already follow this diet, in many cases they need to also decrease portion sizes and snacking.

The rise in the prevalence of diabetes may also be due to the growth in availability and affordability of fast food. If you have not watched the movie Super Size Me, consider renting it. The movie is incredibly powerful and illustrates the many negative heath effects of frequenting fast food restaurants. In addition to watching your diet, remember to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day to help rid the body of toxins and increase overall health. Lastly, if you smoke, stop. Smoking also increases the risk of developing diabetes, among other things.

Alice Williard- Michaels is the Diabetes Program Coordinator at Parkview Adventist Medical Center.


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