“I don’t want diabetes.” I probably hear that at least five to six times per week in my line of work.
The thought of developing type 2 diabetes is very scary for my patients. It’s very understandable to be afraid of developing something that can affect your health in so many ways.
One of my patients stands out in particular. Ms. Clark (not her real name) told me that her sister was recently diagnosed with diabetes, her aunt died as a result of complications from diabetes and her mother was struggling with needles and injections in addition to failing eyesight due to diabetes.
She had decided that it was time for her to change her lifestyle to make a difference in her “fate.” Ms. Clark had just done something that her family members had not been able to do—understand that this disease is largely preventable.
We helped her make the link between her favorite 32-ounce sodas and the extra 35 pounds she had gained since starting that new stressful job. While she admitted that it was great to have a good job (or any job) in a bad economy, it was clear that she was coping with the stress in a way that was hurting her health.
After her lab work showed a high blood glucose that fell in the prediabetes range, it didn’t take much convincing from me to get Ms. Clark focused on making some key changes. Now that she has switched to sugar-free drinks, is walking 150 minutes every week to help relieve stress and is eating a sensible meal plan, Ms. Clark is one of the many poster children for how you can make basic lifestyle changes to prevent diabetes. Now, instead of telling me “I don’t want diabetes,” Ms. Clark tells me “I know how to prevent diabetes!”
The first step is knowing your risk. American Diabetes Association Alert Day is coming up on Tuesday, March 27. Be sure to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes.
Meanwhile, you can make changes toward a healthier lifestyle, just like Ms. Clark, in order to prevent or delay prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
1) Get 10 minutes of physical activity three times a day. Find it hard to fit 30 minutes into your schedule at one time? Try breaking it up into three 10-minute blocks. That’s what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend to help you lower your blood pressure, manage your cholesterol and lose weight. You can take three 10-minute walks after meals or find other simple ways to fit activity into your busy life. Then work up to a 30-minute brisk walk most days.
2) Losing a few pounds can make a big difference. Dropping 7 percent of your weight can prevent or delay diseases like type 2 diabetes. For a 180-pound person, 7 percent is just 12 pounds. Remember one key to slimming down: Go slowly. Most of us succeed by making one small change at a time. Little by little, the small changes you make will add up to a big difference.
3) Make healthy food choices. Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean going on a diet, or even swearing off chocolate cake. Choose more vegetables, whole grains and fruit every day. These high-fiber foods provide disease-fighting nutrients, fill you up and keep you full longer—so you are less likely to snack on high-calorie foods. Also include beans, low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, nuts and lean meats in your diet. Save that cake for special occasions and, even then, keep your portion sizes small.
For more small steps you can take to make a difference in your health, call 1-800-DIABETES.
Jamy D. Ard, MD
Member, Prevention Committee
American Diabetes Association