November is American Diabetes Month, an opportunity to learn more about this condition that impacts nearly 30 million Americans and understand what you can do to prevent it. According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 86 million Americans are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, sometimes known as adult-onset diabetes. This common chronic condition is characterized by high blood glucose levels caused by either a lack of insulin in the body or an inability to use insulin properly. However, there are some steps you can take to prevent risk factors from becoming a diagnosis.
First, it is important to understand if you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Here are some risk factors to consider:
- Excess weight, including being overweight or obese
- Family history of diabetes, specifically a parent, brother or sister
- Inactivity or lack of exercise
- Unhealthy diet
- Previous or existing medical conditions, including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, polycystic ovarian syndrome or cardiovascular disease
If you think you may be at risk, there are a number of steps you can take to help prevent diabetes from developing:
- Reduce excess weight: Excess weight is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes, increasing risk by at least seven times. By losing 7 to 10 percent of your current weight, you can cut your risk in half.
- Increase activity: Regular exercise can help you lose excess weight and lower high blood pressure, another key risk factor for diabetes. The most impact comes from including both aerobic exercise and strength or resistance training in your routine.
- Eat a healthy diet: Avoid junk food, including processed foods and soda, and focus on more nutritious options instead. Additionally, by incorporating fiber and whole grains into your diet, you can reduce your risk for both diabetes and heart disease. The nutrients provided by these and other healthy foods can also help promote weight loss.
- Quit smoking: In addition to other health conditions linked with smoking, people who smoke increase their risk of diabetes by more than 50 percent, and this likelihood increases for heavy smokers.
It is possible to prevent diabetes by taking some simple steps to improve your overall health. If you think you might be at risk, talk to your doctor about what you can do now to avoid developing this common chronic condition.
For Health Advocate Members
If you’re a Health Advocate member, call your Personal Health Advocate for help scheduling time with your doctor to discuss any potential diabetes risk factors and a plan to address them. If you have access to Wellness Coaching, your coach can help you incorporate exercise and healthy diet changes into your daily routine to help reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Additionally, Health Advocate’s Tobacco Cessation program can provide one-on-one support to help you quit smoking, along with other resources tailored to your needs.
Other Helpful Resources
To learn more, please visit any of the websites below that provide additional information about preventing diabetes: