How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes has been categorized as an epidemic by the World Health Organization, with more than 9.3 percent of the United States adult population affected. What’s more, 86 million additional adults have prediabetes, a condition categorized by high blood sugar that has not yet developed into diabetes. Approximately 30 percent of people with prediabetes will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within five years.
The good news? The National Diabetes Prevention Program, a federal study that examined more than 3,000 people at high risk for diabetes, found that the disease is largely preventable. Those in this risk category can often delay the disease or stave it off entirely by exercising and eating a nutritious diet, provided these healthy lifestyle changes result in a 5 to 7 percent decrease in body weight. Here are the most effective ways to prevent diabetes.
1. Lose Weight if Necessary
Based on the research above, a person weighing 200 pounds would have to lose 10 to 14 pounds to effectively cut diabetes risk. And by changing your diet and exercising as recommended, you’re taking the steps necessary to lower the number on the scale.
2. Make Healthy Food Choices
While changing your whole lifestyle may seem daunting, making just a few small changes to your diet has the potential to make a big difference. To lower your diabetes risk, focus on fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Choose leaner cuts of meat and low fat dairy products rather than red meat and full fat dairy. Limit snack foods like soda, sweets, and chips, as well as fried items and fast food. Avoid packaged foods labeled specifically for diabetics, which often don’t have any added health benefits.
3. Get Enough Exercise
Physical activity can have incredible health benefits. For best results, you should strive for a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility. Healthy adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical exercise each day for at least five days of the week. If you’re not used to exercising, it’s OK to start small and to break your workouts into chunks (for example, three 10 minute walks throughout the day).
4. Know Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Numbers
High blood pressure and cholesterol have no physical symptoms, but left untreated raises your risk for a number of serious medical complications–including diabetes. Have screenings for these conditions as often as recommended by your doctor, and take the required steps to lower your numbers if necessary.
5. If You Smoke, Quit
Smokers are twice as likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers, so it’s important to quit using tobacco if you do smoke. Not only are you cutting your risk for diabetes, but also cancer, heart disease, and other serious diseases.
Some risk factors for diabetes cannot be changed. You may be at high risk for developing this condition if you are older than age 65, are African American, and/or have a family history of diabetes. To learn more about your diabetes risk and how you can prevent a diabetes diagnosis, talk with your doctor.