Almost 80 million Americans have pre-diabetes, which can lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes.
Many more are on the path to develop pre-diabetes or full-blown diabetes within their lifetimes. The worst part is that, for many people, diabetes is preventable. Although there are many genetic factors that play into whether a person gets diabetes or not, there are also several lifestyle, diet and activity changes that can help patients prevent this life threatening disease.
Type 2 Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower limb amputation and blindness. It can also increase a person’s chances of developing heart disease. By making significant changes to your diet, upping your exercise level and losing weight, you can lower your risk for diabetes and several other serious health problems.
If you understand more about the disease and know what to look for, you can make changes to prevent Type 2 diabetes and help your loved ones do the same.
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body develops a resistance to insulin that is produced by the pancreas. In either case, there is too little insulin absorbed into the bloodstream and blood sugar levels remain high.
Even if a patient manages their Type 2 diabetes, simply having the disease increases their risk for several other serious health problems including vision, numbness in the feet, skin infections and heart disease.
What Are The Risk Factors For Type 2 Diabetes?
There are several risk factors that make Type 2 diabetes more prevalent. Your ethnic background can have a significant effect on your risk. People of Hispanic, African American, Native American and Asian backgrounds have a higher incidence of Type 2 diabetes compared to those of European descent.
If you have a family history of diabetes, you’re also at higher risk. Having a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle can give you a genetic predisposition for the disease.
These factors aside, preventing diabetes is possible. The other risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise and a diet high in sugar and processed food.
Preventing Diabetes Step-by-Step
Your first stop for diabetes should be your doctor’s office. Your physician can help you lower your cholesterol and your blood pressure, as well as give you the green light to start a healthy exercise and diet program. If you’re overweight or obese, getting rid of the excess weight will lower your risk for diabetes as well as help you control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. People who have a body mass index (BMI) of 29 or above increase their risk of diabetes to one in four. By losing just 10% of your total weight, you’ll be on a good start to preventing diabetes.
Begin By Changing Your Diet
Start by changing your eating habits and eliminating processed foods and sugary foods. Many people understand the need to eliminate sugary foods, but processed foods also have high levels of sugar in them. Several forms of sugar are used as preservatives in canned and packaged foods. If you begin to read labels, you’ll be very surprised.
The American Diabetes Association offers the following healthy eating tips for losing weight and prevention diabetes.
- Eat more vegetables – preferably fresh with an emphasis on green, leafy veggies
- Eat a wide variety of fresh fruits
- Choose whole grain foods over those made with white flour
- Incorporate dried beans and lentils into your diet
- Select lean meats and fish
On the exercise side of the spectrum, you should start with a moderate exercise program that will get you moving without straining your muscles. If you don’t currently exercise, you shouldn’t start jogging all of a sudden. Try using a pedometer to count your steps and then increase by a specific number each week. Once you’ve gotten comfortable at that level of activity, challenge yourself with something new.
By making these changes, you’ll lose weight, feel better about yourself and make strides toward preventing Type 2 diabetes. Best of all, your changes may motivate your friends and family to start getting healthy as well.