A little more than 10% of Americans live with diabetes. But about one in three people have prediabetes and don’t even know they’re at risk. Could it be you?
Diabetes is a disease that affects the level of your blood sugar and how your body regulates those levels. It can cause major damage like kidney failure, heart disease, blindness, and other health conditions. Normally, your body balances blood sugar so that it stays in a safe range. This happens when your blood sugar rises, your pancreas begins to make insulin which then lowers the blood sugar level. For someone with diabetes, their body either doesn’t make insulin (type 1 diabetes) or makes insulin, but the body doesn’t use it correctly (type 2 diabetes).
Knowing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is important. Before you’re diagnosed with diabetes, you might have periods of high blood sugar levels, but not quite high enough to call it diabetes. This is called prediabetes. Prevention is built on healthy eating, regular exercise and losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.
What can I eat?
There is much confusion about the topic of food and diabetes or prediabetes. There are many fad diets that are not healthy and can actually be harmful. Basically, eating healthy foods in the proper amounts at the right times help to control blood sugar levels and manage your weight.
There are many ways you can improve your diet and still find things you like to eat. A meal plan made up of lean proteins, low-fat or non-fat milk or yogurt, whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables will help you feel well and live healthy. The Plate Method is a tool that has been around for a decade that guides on what foods are healthy.
Carbohydrates break down into small molecules of sugar which is used by your body for fuel. Portion control is an essential part of meal planning. If you don’t know what or how much to eat, an excellent resource is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
What can I drink?
The next logical question is what foods or drinks should I limit or avoid? Foods that are high in added sugar like desserts, pancake syrup and sugary liquids (fruit juice, regular soda pop, lemonade, sports drinks, sweet tea) should be avoided or used in small amounts occasionally (think special occasions). This is not good advice only for people living with diabetes or prediabetes, it is a good advice for everyone.
When you choose water as your main beverage, you’re drinking a natural substance that is caffeine and calorie-free. It hydrates your body, helps remove waste products and assists with weight loss. According to the National Institute of Health, water can also stabilize your blood sugars and insulin response. That same study showed that people who drank more than two sugary drinks a day were at an increased risk of developing diabetes.
Regular exercise or physical activity is another cornerstone to living a healthy life. The American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and Centers for Disease Control all recommend 150 minutes of exercise a week. This may be broken down into 30 minutes, 5 days a week. If you don’t have 30 minute blocks of time, 10 minute bursts are beneficial. Look for ways to be more active overall.
In fact, 150 minutes of exercise a week is part of the CDC’s Diabetes Prevention Program. If you would like to learn more about prediabetes and preventing type 2 diabetes, take a few minutes to look at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website.
Maintaining a healthy weight is good for your overall health, but can also lower your risk of developing diabetes. If you’re overweight, dropping a few pounds can help you prevent or delay developing diabetes. The more weight you work to lose, the more health benefits you’ll see from that weight loss
If you are struggling to lose weight, speak with your doctor or a dietitian. They can help you choose the right meal plan and exercise program for your body type. The most important part is choosing a lifestyle you can stick with long-term and not just rely on trying fad diets on a temporary basis.
According to the CDC, smoking has been linked to many different types of health issues including heart disease, lung problems, cancers and diabetes. When you smoke, it makes your insulin less effective in controlling your blood sugar. It can also cause poor blood flow, which can lead to foot infections, ulcers and other wounds.
Smokers are at a higher risk of having diabetes. You can lower your by working to stop smoking or using nicotine. The same can be said if you use smokeless tobacco, such as dip, snuff or chewing tobacco.
NMC Health offers diabetes education and certified dietitians
If you have questions about diabetes or prediabetes, reach out to one of our Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists. Our team consists of nurse and dietitian educators. Whether it has to do with diabetes management or ways to improve your lifestyle, our team can help.
Be sure to speak with your doctor about your risk levels and whether you should be tested for diabetes. You can also set up an appointment to talk about a healthy lifestyle with our NMC Health certified dietitians.