Type 2 diabetes is a dangerous disease, and one that can be a challenge to manage. It can lead to heart and kidney disease, blindness and many other health conditions. Until a cure is found, people with the disease have to aim for the best nutrition possible, keep their blood sugars in the best control possible, exercise as directed and most-likely take medication each day.
Am I at-risk?
In 2010, the CDC estimated 79 million people ages 20 and older in the U.S. had pre-diabetes, and even more are at-risk. Pre-diabetes is when blood glucose levels or Hemoglobin A1C levels are above normal, but not high enough to be in the diabetic range. But, people with pre-diabetes are already at a higher risk for heart disease and other complications.
You are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes if you:
- Are overweight
- Exercise fewer than three times each week
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Are African-American, Hispanic, American-Indian or Pacific Islander
- Are older than 45
- Had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
- Have high blood pressure or cholesterol
- Have a history of heart disease
- Have given birth to a baby 9 pounds or larger
- Have a history of some other endocrine conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome
Small changes, big rewards
Pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes can often be prevented. And it does not require a complete overhaul of your lifestyle. Research shows that reducing your body weight by 5 to 10 percent, or 10 to 20 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds, can cut your diabetes risk in half. Weight loss can also delay the onset of diabetes.
Reduce your risk
The key to stopping type 2 diabetes is to reach a healthy weight and to exercise regularly. The trick to long-lasting weight loss is a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Work up to 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at 50-70 percent of your target heart rate. If your doctor approves, you should perform muscle-strengthening exercises twice weekly. Always check with your doctor before you start an exercise program.
Try these exercise tips to get started:
Exercise does not have to happen all at once.
- Take a short, brisk walk before work, during your lunch break and after dinner.
- Do squats while you brush your teeth.
- Do sit-ups and push-ups during commercial breaks of TV shows.
Find something you enjoy.
- Walk with friends in a nearby park.
- Swim at your local gym or community pool. Swimming and water workouts reduce impact on your joints. This is a great form of exercise for people with knee and other joint problems.
- Gardening or yard work. Use a push mower to cut your lawn.
Get in spurts of physical activity throughout the day.
- Instead of letting the dog out, walk him around the block.
- Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
- Walk over to your colleague's office instead of e-mailing or calling.
Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat and nonfat dairy. Try to limit foods high in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, salt and added sugar.
Start with these tips:
Watch portion sizes.
- Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate for your meals.
- Do not go back for seconds. Limit how often you eat at buffets or all-you-can-eat restaurants to resist temptation.
- Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. One quarter of your plate should be a carbohydrate, such as brown rice or a baked potato. The other quarter should be lean protein, like grilled fish or skinless chicken.
- Always eat breakfast. Research shows that people who eat breakfast weigh less than those who skip the meal.
- Have a snack. Keep healthy snacks -- like a piece of fruit and low-fat string cheese -- on hand so you won't need to visit the vending machine.
Stop drinking your calories.
- Use nonfat milk in place of whole or 2 percent.
- Request that your morning latte or mocha be made with nonfat milk.
- Trade regular soda for diet. Better yet, choose water instead of sugary drinks.
Be wary of dining out.
- Brown-bag your lunch instead of going out to lunch.
- Have an appetizer as your meal or split an entrée.
- Save eating out for special occasions and make dining at home a habit.
Created on 07/15/2009
Updated on 06/04/2012
- American Diabetes Association. How to prevent pre-diabetes.
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Am I at risk for type 2 diabetes? Taking steps to lower your risk of getting diabetes.
- Weight Control Information Network. Active at any size.
- American Diabetes Association. Prevention or delay of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2004;27(Suppl 1):s47-s54.