4 Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
You don't have to strive for chiseled abs to drastically lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Just a few minutes a day and making better choices can get you well on your way.
By Michael Smith
Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario
You can hardly turn on the TV or listen to the radio without hearing a new report on the epidemic of type 2 diabetes. But what can you do to not become part of this statistic?
Type 2 diabetes -- the most common type -- occurs when the body uses insulin inefficiently and can longer keep blood sugar levels in check. Over the years, damage to nerves and blood vessels can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and leg amputation.
But type 2 diabetes is preventable in many people. And the results of a large study show you how to do just that.
We're Not Talking Six-Pack Abs
In the study, some 3,000 people at high risk for diabetes -- due to being overweight and having higher than normal blood sugar levels (a condition called prediabetes) -- followed a moderate diet and exercise program. Dropping their weight by just 5% to 7% delayed and possibly prevented type 2 diabetes. Average weight loss in the first year of the study was 15 pounds.
This doesn't mean devoting your life to six-pack abs. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day five days a week (usually by walking) and lowering their intake of fat and calories did the trick. They lowered their daily calorie total by an average of about 450 calories. People that followed this program reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by 58%. The program was even more effective in those 60 and older -- reducing their risk of type 2 diabetes by 71%.
Do You Need to Lower Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes?
There are several factors that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes -- some that you can control and some that you can't.
Factors you can't control:
Factors you can control:
Let's Get Started
You can do a lot to lower your chances of getting diabetes. Exercising regularly, reducing fat and calorie intake, and losing weight can all help you reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels also help you stay healthy.
Making big changes in your life is hard, especially if you are faced with more than one change. You can make it easier by taking these steps:
4 Steps to Living Better and Longer
Reach and Maintain a Reasonable Body Weight -- Being overweight can keep your body from using insulin properly. Insulin is the hormone that allows your body to use sugar for energy. Being overweight can also cause high blood pressure. Even losing a few pounds can help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes because it helps your body use insulin more effectively. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, losing only 10 pounds could make a difference.
If you are overweight or obese, choose sensible ways to get in shape:
Make Wise Food Choices Most of the Time -- What you eat has a big impact on your health. By making wise food choices, you can help control your body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Be Physically Active Every Day --- Regular exercise tackles several risk factors at once. It helps you lose weight, keeps your cholesterol and blood pressure under control, and helps your body use insulin. Even brisk walking works.
If you are not very active, you should start slowly, talking with your doctor first about what kinds of exercise would be safe for you. Make a plan to increase your activity level toward the goal of being active for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
Choose activities you enjoy. Here are some ways to work extra activity into your daily routine:
Take Your Prescribed Medications -- Some people need medication to help control their blood pressure or cholesterol levels. If you do, take your medicines as directed. Ask your doctor whether there are any medicines you can take to prevent type 2 diabetes.
Should I be tested for diabetes?
Anyone 45 years old or older should get tested for diabetes. If you are younger than 45, overweight, and have one or more of the above, you should consider testing. Your doctor will tell you if you have normal blood sugar, prediabetes (a fasting blood sugar of at least 100), or diabetes (fasting blood sugar of 126 or greater).
What does it mean to have prediabetes?
It means you are at risk for getting type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The good news is if you have prediabetes you can reduce the risk of getting diabetes and even return to normal blood sugar levels. With modest weight loss and moderate physical activity, you can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. If your blood sugar is higher than normal but lower than the diabetes range (what we now call prediabetes), have your blood sugar checked in one to two years.
Originally published Nov. 4, 2003.
Medically updated July 28, 2004.
SOURCE: National Institutes of Health.
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