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November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes is a condition where people have higher than normal blood sugar (glucose). There are a few different types of diabetes, but type 2 diabetes is by far the most common.
Nearly 35 million Americans have diabetes; that’s more than one in every 10 people. Another 20% have prediabetes, a condition where sugar values are higher than normal, but not high enough to qualify for a diagnosis of diabetes. Prediabetes usually lasts for years before type 2 diabetes develops.
Diabetes has serious complications, including blindness, kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and heart disease. Diabetes is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
The good news is that about 90% of diabetes cases can be prevented through improvement in nutrition and exercise. In addition, most cases of prediabetes are reversible. With hard work, most people can return to healthy sugar levels.
As mentioned above, most people develop prediabetes first. Regular screening exams help catch high blood sugar levels early, and for noticing any upward trends in your glucose levels.
There are risk factors for developing diabetes. These include being over 45 years old, being overweight, having a family history of diabetes, having a personal history of gestational diabetes, and being sedentary.
Take the prediabetes risk test to assess your risk level. If your results show higher risk, schedule an appointment with your doctor for further lab testing and consultation.
Type 2 Diabetes
In type 2 diabetes, blood sugar is high because the body either doesn’t make enough insulin or it doesn’t respond to insulin like it should (also known as insulin resistance). Weight management, muscle building physical activity, watching sugar intake, and stress management are key lifestyle behaviors that can help manage and prevent type 2 diabetes.
Physical activity, a proper diet, and healthy stress management strategies are the most important lifestyle factors for preventing type 2 diabetes.
- Weight loss: If you are overweight or obese, losing about 5-7% of your body weight will cut your diabetes risk in half. Excess abdominal (belly) fat increases insulin resistance which leads to an increase in blood sugar.
- Regular physical activity: Exercise is key to improving insulin sensitivity. Exercise a minimum of 150 minutes a week to help manage blood sugar levels. A balanced exercise regimen should include both aerobic and resistance training.
- Stress management: Certain hormones released during stressful situations can raise blood sugar levels. When these hormones are chronically elevated, they can affect blood sugar on an ongoing basis. Stress management techniques that promote emotional wellbeing are a key component of overall health.
- Build a balanced meal and limit added sugar: Learning to build a balanced meal is an integral part of preventing diabetes and promoting health. Focus on fiber by making half your plate veggies and fruits and including a serving of whole grains. Processed foods like sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, and snack items usually have a lot of added sugar, so check each package to know what you’re getting.
- Quit Smoking: Smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-smokers.
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