When it comes to type 2 diabetes -- the most common type of diabetes -- prevention is a big deal. It's especially important to make diabetes prevention a priority if you're at increased risk of diabetes, for example, if you're overweight or have a family history of the disease.
Diabetes prevention is as basic as eating more healthfully, becoming more physically active and losing a few extra pounds -- and it's never too late to start. Making a few simple changes in your lifestyle now may help you avoid the serious health complications of diabetes down the road, such as nerve, kidney and heart damage. Consider the latest diabetes prevention tips from the American Diabetes Association.
Tip 1: Get more physical activity
There are many benefits to regular physical activity. Exercise can help you:
- Lose weight
- Lower your blood sugar
- Boost your sensitivity to insulin -- which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range
Research shows that both aerobic exercise and resistance training can help control diabetes, but the greater benefit comes from a fitness program that includes both.
Tip 2: Get plenty of fiber
It's rough, it's tough -- and it may help you:
- Reduce your risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar control
- Lower your risk of heart disease
- Promote weight loss by helping you feel full
Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Tip 3: Go for whole grains
Although it's not clear why, whole grains may reduce your risk of diabetes and help maintain blood sugar levels. Try to make at least half your grains whole grains. Many foods made from whole grains come ready to eat, including various breads, pasta products and many cereals. Look for the word "whole" on the package and among the first few items in the ingredient list.
Tip 4: Lose extra weight
If you're overweight, diabetes prevention may hinge on weight loss. Every pound you lose can improve your health, and you may be surprised by how much. Participants in one large study who lost a modest amount of weight -- around 7 percent of initial body weight -- and exercised regularly reduced the risk of developing diabetes by almost 60 percent.
Tip 5: Skip fad diets and just make healthier choices
Low-carb diets, the glycemic index diet or other fad diets may help you lose weight at first, but their effectiveness at preventing diabetes isn't known nor are their long-term effects. And by excluding or strictly limiting a particular food group, you may be giving up essential nutrients. Instead, think variety and portion control as part of an overall healthy-eating plan.
When to see your doctor
If you're older than age 45 and your weight is normal, ask your doctor if diabetes testing is appropriate for you. The American Diabetes Association recommends blood glucose screening if:
- You're age 45 or older and overweight
- You're younger than age 45 and overweight with one or more additional risk factors for type 2 diabetes -- such as a sedentary lifestyle or a family history of diabetes
Share your concerns about diabetes prevention with your doctor. He or she will applaud your efforts to keep diabetes at bay, and perhaps offer additional suggestions based on your medical history or other factors.