What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a medical condition that affects the
body’s ability to produce or use insulin. It also affects blood sugar levels.
The three types of diabetes are type 1, type 2
and gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes affects the body’s ability to produce
insulin. Type 2 diabetes affects the body’s ability to use insulin well.
Gestational diabetes impacts the body’s ability to use blood sugar during
The cause of type 1 diabetes is not understood
and at this time is not preventable. However, people trying to avoid type 2
diabetes may be able to engage in lifestyle changes that lower their risk.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Obesity is a major risk factor in
type 2 diabetes. According to the National
Diabetes Education Program, overweight people who lose 5 to 7 percent of
their body weight can help prevent diabetes.
The first step in weight loss or
weight maintenance to prevent diabetes is eating a healthy diet. This includes
avoiding foods that are high in unhealthy fats and cholesterol in favor of
fresh foods and whole-grain carbohydrate choices. Avoiding processed and
pre-packaged foods can help.
Portion control is often an
important aspect of eating a healthy diet. For example, a serving of meat or
fish should be roughly the size of a deck of cards. However, most Americans eat
significantly larger food amounts. By limiting excessive portions, people can
cut calories to result in weight loss.
Exercise is the second part of the weight-loss plan for
people trying to prevent type 2 diabetes. Engaging in at least 30 minutes of
physical activity five days a week can help. However, people who don’t
currently exercise may need to start in smaller intervals. This can include
three 10-minute exercise sessions each day.
Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be effective.
Moderate, low-impact physical activity can help people achieve weight loss.
Exercise examples can include:
- riding a bicycle or stationary bicycle
- taking an aerobics class
- using an elliptical exercise machine
If the activity gets the heart
pumping, it can be effective in diabetes prevention.
Gestational diabetes increases a
woman’s risk for getting type 2 diabetes. By taking steps to lose weight after
giving birth in a slow, healthy way, women can reduce their risk. However,
women should not begin exercising until their doctors given them the OK to
are significantly more likely to have diabetes. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, smokers are 50 percent more likely to develop type
2 diabetes than are people who don’t smoke. The more a person smokes, the
higher their risk.
smoking is not easy. People who have developed the habit over time must work
hard to break it. However, many helpful resources exist. People can call their
state “quitline” at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Many support groups exist to
help people successfully quit. Nicotine patches and gums can also help to ease
cravings. While quitting may take some time, it can reduce diabetes risk and
improve overall health.
Avoid Excess Alcohol Intake
According to the Harvard
School of Public Health, consuming excess alcohol increases diabetes risk.
However, moderate alcohol
consumption in people who already drink alcohol may have protective effects
against diabetes. Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol helps the body use
blood glucose more effectively. For men, this is no more than two drinks per
day. For women, moderate consumption is no more than one drink per day.
If you do not currently drink
alcohol, you don’t have to start. A healthy lifestyle is an effective way of
reducing diabetes risk.