3 Best Steps to Help Prevent Diabetes
November is National Diabetes Month -- a perfect reminder to take stock of your health, evaluate your risk of diabetes, and make sure you are doing everything you can to prevent this potentially devastating disease. Begin right this minute with these three steps.
1. Check for prediabetes.
Prediabetes, as its name implies, is a precursor to diabetes. It is defined by a blood sugar level that is high but not at the level of diabetes, and it puts you at a greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes than someone with a normal blood sugar level. If you have it, you likely won’t know it because, generally, there are no physical symptoms, but certain factors mean you are more likely to have prediabetes: being 45 years of age or older, having a family history of diabetes, being overweight, exercising less than three times a week, having had gestational diabetes, and being of certain ethnic backgrounds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in partnership with the American Medical Association offer a simple 7-question screening test for prediabetes. Go to the diabetes page on the CDC’s website and take the prediabetes quiz. If you score high, make an appointment to see your doctor to discuss your diabetes risk and getting your blood sugar tested.
Weight loss of 5-7% along with 150 minutes of weekly moderate physical activity will reduce your risk for diabetes by 58%. For support to achieve that goal, see the CDC Registry of recognized programs for diabetes prevention.
2. Make exercise a priority.
Regular physical activity is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent diabetes. “Skeletal muscle [biceps, triceps, calves, quads, etc.] is your body’s biggest consumer of blood sugar,” points out Timothy Church, MD, MPH, PhD, a professor of preventative medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, and a member of the Curves and Jenny Craig Science Advisory Board.
Muscle burns glucose for energy. The more you move, the more your muscle cells pull blood sugar out of circulation and into the energy production furnace. And when you exercise regularly, adds Church, your body becomes more efficient at using glucose. Finally, regular physical activity helps you get to and maintain a healthy weight. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.
The best exercise for diabetes prevention? A combination of cardio and strength training, says Church: “Aerobic exercise and resistance training impact the muscle in different ways. It’s a case of 1 + 1 equals 3.” Cardio plus strength training? Sounds like a Curves workout, right?
3. Eat well to help prevent diabetes.
Weight management is key to avoiding this disease, so keep an eye on portion control and avoid high-calorie foods. Cut back on saturated fat, the enemy of a healthy weight and heart health. Fill up instead on high-fiber foods: whole grains, beans, and whole fruits and vegetables. Fiber helps you feel satisfied throughout the day so that you don’t overindulge during or between meals, and it helps to slow the release of sugar into your body. Whole foods also pack lots vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients important to good health.
Knowing your risk for diabetes, exercising regularly, and eating healthfully puts you on the best path to diabetes prevention.
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