Concerned about your risk for diabetes? Your doctor can help! In the meantime, here are several strategies for how to prevent type 2 diabetes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), almost 30 million Americans have diabetes, including 25% of all people over the age of 60. Approximately 95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes—and 1 in 4 aren’t even aware they have the disease.
Equally alarming, another 86 million Americans have prediabetes, a condition in which their blood sugar level is elevated, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes, a chronic condition. Without proper intervention—including steps such as weight loss and physical exercise—up to 30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years.
Ann Albright, Director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, notes the urgency of the situation:
“These new numbers are alarming and underscore the need for an increased focus on reducing the burden of diabetes in our country in. Diabetes is costly in both human and economic terms. It’s urgent that we take swift action to effectively treat and prevent this serious disease.”
What Is Type 2 Diabetes, And What Causes It?
When people have type 1 diabetes, their bodies no longer produce insulin. With type 2 diabetes, either their body does not produce a sufficient amount of insulin, or the body becomes “insulin resistant.” The primary causes of type 2 diabetes are an unhealthy diet, obesity, and the lack of adequate exercise.
Steps You Can Take to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
The good news is that people with prediabetes can make simple lifestyle changes which will reduce the odds of developing type 2 diabetes, including the following 5:
- Change Your Diet
An unhealthy diet is one of the main causes of type 2 diabetes. A healthier diet includes less sugar, saturated fat and processed foods, and more fiber, fruits and vegetables. Specifically, you should:
- Eat more fiber and whole grains
- Choose foods which are low in saturated fat and avoid trans fat
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Choose leaner meats and poultry
- Choose low-fat dairy products
- Eat less processed foods
- Avoid sugary treats, especially soda, high-sugar fruit juice and sweets
- Lose Weight
You should first consult with your doctor, who can recommend how much weight you need to lose. Generally, you can prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes without losing a large amount of weight—in most cases, losing as little as 5% of your weight is sufficient (if you’re a man who weighs 200 pounds, that means losing at little as 10 pounds).
There are simple, and not particularly dramatic, steps you can take to reduce your weight by 5%. Sometimes simply eliminating sodas from your diet is enough. You should also reduce your food portions and flavor foods with spices instead of high-calorie dressings.
- Exercise at Least 30 Minutes Each Day
Starting an exercise routine does more than burn calories. Research shows that daily exercise also improves your body’s ability to absorb insulin, burn glucose more effectively, and manage your blood sugar levels.
Exercising in combination with dietary changes is especially beneficial. People with prediabetes, for example, can cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58% if they eat a healthy diet and exercise as little as 30 minutes a day. You don’t need to run a marathon or begin lifting free weights—just taking a casual 2-mile walk every morning should be enough to reap these benefits.
- Stop Smoking
Smoking increases the odds of developing diabetes by about 40%—and the more you smoke, the greater the risk. Smoking, of course, also increases the risk of developing heart, respiratory and kidney disease. This one’s a no-brainer: If you want to lower your risk for diabetes, stop smoking today.
- Monitor Your Blood Pressure
About 2 of every 3 people with diabetes also has high blood pressure (anything higher than 140/90). You need to work with your doctor, who can help you monitor your blood pressure and recommend strategies to reduce it. These could include taking blood pressure medications and making appropriate lifestyle changes. Talk with your doctor about your blood pressure and take his or her advice about ways to reduce it if it’s too high.
Final Thoughts On How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Making the lifestyle changes necessary to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes will both improve the quality of your life and increase the odds that you will live longer. Fortunately, the steps you can take to prevent diabetes are not major. Eating a healthier diet, reducing your weight by as little as 5%, integrating simple exercise into your daily routine, quitting smoking (if you smoke), and monitoring your blood pressure can dramatically reduce your risk.
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