Diabetes is common and affects more than 10% of the U.S. population. While type 1 diabetes is diagnosed during childhood and can’t be prevented, type 2 diabetes often can. Even if you have risk factors such as family history, here’s what you can do to identify and control your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Understand Your Diabetes Risk
Diabetes occurs when glucose, or sugar, builds up in the blood. In type 2 diabetes, the cells become resistant to insulin, which normally helps absorb sugar. While experts aren’t sure exactly why this occurs, it’s believed that a combination of lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors leads to diabetes.
Being overweight is a known risk factor for diabetes, but not everyone who gets diabetes is overweight. Your diabetes risk is also higher if you:
- Are over the age of 45
- Have a parent or sibling with diabetes
- Don’t exercise
- Are Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
- Have high blood sugar or cholesterol
- Have had diabetes during pregnancy
- Have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Fortunately, identifying risk factors that can’t be changed will allow you to focus on the following risks that you can control.
Manage Your Weight
Being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for developing diabetes, but it’s also one that can be changed. If you’re overweight, losing seven to ten percent of your body weight could cut your diabetes risk in half.
Adjust Your Diet
Even small changes in food choices can go a long way to reduce your diabetes risk. Here are some tips to consider:
- Swap out sugary beverages for water to reduce your overall sugar intake, which can improve your body’s ability to process sugar.
- When possible, choose lean proteins such as grilled chicken or beans over heavily processed meats. Go for whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread or pasta, as these cause less of a sugar spike in your system.
- Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, since they help control blood sugar.
- Control your portions. Smaller meals are easier for the body to process, so start with smaller servings and stop once you feel full.
Combined with a healthy diet, exercise can be even more powerful than certain drugs for preventing diabetes. Exercising for 150 minutes a week (30 minutes, five days a week) is ideal for reducing your diabetes risk, but you can work up to that amount gradually over time. Finding an exercise you enjoy is the best way to stick with physical activity, but it doesn’t have to be complicated — walking is free, requires no special training or equipment, and can be done almost anywhere.
Move Throughout the Day
In addition to routine exercise, small movements throughout the day can help prevent diabetes. Breaking up long periods of sitting with short walks has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels. If you have a desk job, set reminders on your phone to get up and move each hour.
Get Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body control blood sugar. If you’re vitamin D deficient, taking a supplement could help your body produce insulin to significantly reduce your diabetes risk. Good sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver. If you think you might not get enough of the nutrient from your diet, ask your doctor about taking supplements.
If you want to learn more about ways to prevent diabetes or there’s another health issue you’d like to discuss, turn to one of our caring practitioners. Find your closest location, or request a telehealth appointment for a virtual visit.