Type 2 Diabetes: How to Lower Your Risk
Type 2 diabetes has become a national epidemic. According to the 2017 Diabetes Statistics Report from the CDC, approximately 30.3 million people (or 9.4% of the US population) have diabetes. (This has increased from 2007's statistics of 23.6 million people or 7.8% of the U.S. population). People with disabilities are three times more likely to develop diabetes. The good news is that the chronic disease can be preventable by improving access and making healthy lifestyle changes. As a New Year has approached, this is a time to make people more aware of the seriousness of diabetes and what they can do to both prevent and control it.
Diabetes is a general term meaning that blood glucose is too high. With type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells are resistant to the insulin. Insulin is responsible for moving the glucose into the cells to be used for energy. Over time, high blood glucose levels can cause many problems in the body, including diabetic neuropathy (damage to the nerves that allow you to feel sensations such as pain), retinopathy (damage to the retina of the eye, which can eventually lead to blindness), and kidney disorders. When blood glucose levels are consistently high, the blood becomes thicker, which makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood throughout the body, leading to poor circulation.
The risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes are:
- Physical inactivity
- Age over 45
- Family history: Having an immediate relative with the disease (a parent or sibling)
- Race: Alaska Native, American Indian, African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander
- Pre-diabetes: Having an impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) or impaired fasting glucose (IFG).
- History of gestational diabetes, or giving birth to at least one baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
- High cholesterol
- History of heart disease
Take the Diabetes Risk Test to assess your chances of developing the disease: http://www.diabetes.org/risk-test.jsp.
For people with mobility limitations or mobility disabilities, type 2 diabetes is a common secondary condition, possibly due to decreased physical activity and difficulty managing weight. Lessening the chances of developing diabetes is your greatest defense. Prevention is medicine!
There are many actions you can take to reduce the risk of developing the disease and hence reducing risk for the many complications associated with it:
Increase physical activity. Research shows that people who are more physically active, regardless of their weight, are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Physical activity does not have to mean running or wheeling a marathon. Great choices for being more active include going for a walk or wheel after dinner or taking up a new sport or activity. You can reap excellent health benefits from being physically active for 30 minutes, 3 times per week.
Eat healthier. Improving your eating habits can greatly improve your health and help you maintain a healthy weight, which also helps lower the risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
- Eat plenty of fiber, including whole grain breads and pasta, brown rice, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
- Choose lean meats, fish, poultry and/or meat alternatives.
- Choose low-fat and fat-free dairy products.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Limit saturated fat and trans fats.
- Choose foods low in salt (sodium).
- Limit your alcohol intake if you choose to drink.
- Consume only moderate amounts of sugars and foods containing added sugars.
Speaking with a dietitian can help to improve eating patterns and set you on the right track for a healthier lifestyle.
Don't smoke. Smoking increases blood pressure and narrows the arteries, leading to poorer circulation.
If you do have type 2 diabetes, do not give up. Millions of people live very healthy lifestyles with diabetes. It's important to be diligent about your health. Check your blood glucose regularly. Stay active. Maintain a healthy weight. Take your medications. See your doctor on a regular basis. And, remember that you have the power to affect change in your life. Take control of your disease and your life by setting goals to improve your health.
Article updated: 1/18/2018