Diabetes is a serious condition that can affect both your lifespan and your quality of life. Cases of diabetes are on the rise, but there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk. Read on to learn more about how to prevent diabetes.
What are type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
There are two main kinds of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Less than 10% of people with diabetes have type 1, which develops at an early age. People with type 1 diabetes have trouble making insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. You can't prevent type 1 diabetes.
What is prediabetes?
In prediabetes, your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to cause a diagnosis of diabetes. About 1 in 3 Americans have prediabetes, putting them at risk of developing diabetes and increasing their risk of stroke and heart disease. Most people who have prediabetes don't know it.
How can I prevent diabetes?
1. Know your risk
One of the most important steps in preventing diabetes is knowing your risk. Some risk factors are outside your control. These include:
Age over 45
Family history of diabetes
Ethnicity at higher risk of diabetes, including African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander.
Lifestyle factors can also increase your risk. Take an online test available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess your risk, or talk to your doctor. Your doctor can also give you a simple blood sugar test to screen for prediabetes and diabetes.
2. Join a diabetes prevention program
The CDC has a National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) that you may be eligible for. It has lowered participants' chances of developing diabetes by 58%. If you don't qualify for the National DPP, ask your doctor about alternative programs or do an online search for groups that share your goals. Many programs are free or low-cost.
3. Get support from family and friends
Ask your friends and family members to help you meet your goals. Consider partnering with a friend or neighbor who wants to reduce their diabetes risk too.
4. Quit smoking
5. Know your BMI
6. Lose weight
If you're overweight, you don't have to lose it all at once. Some people start by trying to lose 10 to 15 pounds. You can significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetes by losing 7% to 10% of your body weight. For a person weighing 200 pounds, that's just 14 to 20 pounds.
7. Up your intake of fiber
It's important to get enough fiber in your diet if you're trying to prevent diabetes. Including fiber in each meal can prevent blood sugar spikes. Fiber also improves gut health and makes you feel full, so you may eat less.
8. Eat more plants
Whole-food, plant-based diets can reduce your risk of diabetes, research shows. Such diets eliminate or reduce animal products and highly processed foods. Instead, they emphasize fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. This strategy is low-risk and cost-effective. It also reduces your risk of other serious health conditions, like heart disease and some cancers.
9. Improve your lipid profile
Ask your doctor to order a total cholesterol test, also called a lipid profile. A healthier profile is linked to a lower risk of diabetes. In particular, strive for high levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, and low levels of triglycerides. Exercise and good food choices should improve your numbers. Ask your doctor if you need more help.
10. Limit alcohol
Alcohol not only has a lot of calories but also raises your blood pressure. It causes triglycerides to go up and HDL to go down. Limit yourself to one drink a day if you're a woman and two drinks a day if you're a man.
11. Drink water
12. Get some exercise
Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight. Also, using your muscles improves their ability to use insulin. You don't have to do high-intensity workouts. A brisk half-hour walk most days will do the trick. Increase the intensity, length, or frequency of your workout as you get fitter, and you'll benefit even more.
13. Cut down on TV viewing
Watching a lot of television can up your risk of diabetes. Spend two hours watching TV instead of moving around, and you increase your risk of diabetes by 20%, according to one meta-analysis. In the United States, people watch TV for an average of five hours a day. Swap out some of those hours for something more active.
What if I am already diabetic?
If you already have diabetes, these strategies can help you better control your blood sugar. If you make lifestyle changes early in the course of your disease, you may be able to slow down or reverse your diabetes. If you're on diabetes medications, talk to your doctor before altering your diet or making other changes. Blood sugar that goes too low can be dangerous.
American Diabetes Association: "No More Guessing: BMI Calculator."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "On Your Way to Preventing Type 2 Diabetes," "Prediabetes – Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes," "What is Diabetes?"
Gundersen Health System: "6 natural ways to prevent diabetes before it starts."
Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health: "Diabetes," "Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes."
JAMA: "Television Viewing and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and All-Cause Mortality: A Meta-analysis."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Eight Ways to Prevent Diabetes."
Journal of Geriatric Cardiology: "A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes."
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP)," "Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes," "Your Game Plan to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes."
The University of Alabama at Birmingham: "Diabetes prevention: Take control of your health with these simple tips."
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