Lower your risk by making small lifestyle changes
Between 1995 and 2010, the number of diabetes diagnoses rose by at least 50% in 42 states—and doubled in 18 states. What’s more, an estimated 79 million people in the US have pre-diabetes, and many of them don’t know it. “Without attention to lifestyle factors, it is almost inevitable that most of these people will progress to diabetes,” says Nora Saul, MS, RD, certified diabetes educator at the Joslin Diabetes Center. “Diabetes is a devastating disease if not treated.” Should you be concerned? Maybe, but the steps you can take for prevention are simple habits that add up to long-term health. Here’s what you need to know about diabetes.
What Is It?
Diabetes is a disease that causes high glucose levels in the body because of faulty regulation of the hormone insulin. Glucose, or sugar, is used as fuel by the body. Insulin is the key that opens the door for glucose to enter cells from the bloodstream so the body can use it. In people with type 2 diabetes, the system doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. Without proper insulin regulation, the door stays locked, the glucose stays in the bloodstream, and the body doesn’t get enough fuel. Diabetes can lead to fatigue, infections, and serious complications, such as blindness, kidney disease, and stroke.
What Can You Do?
Type 2 diabetes is often called a “lifestyle disease,” because your daily behaviors affect your risk. Bad health habits drive it up, but good ones can lower it. Take these small steps to keep yourself healthy:
- Know your risk: A big part of the diabetes prevention battle is simply being aware of your own risk for the disease. Take 5 minutes out of your day to complete this fast, free test.
- Watch what you eat: “A balanced diet that is low in saturated fat, low in processed carbohydrates, and contains many fruits and vegetables is important,” Saul says. Is your problem simply eating too much without realizing it? Try mindful eating.
- Lace up: “Exercise makes your body much more sensitive to insulin,” Saul says. “Even small amounts of exercise are helpful.” Start by scheduling 15-minute walks on your lunch hour four times a week, and build up from there.
- Mind the scale: Keep your weight in a healthy range. “Obesity is one of the factors that can trigger pre-diabetes and diabetes in genetically susceptible individuals,” Saul says. If you’re overweight now, good news: Losing just 7% of your body weight can help.