Six Things You can do Today to Prevent Diabetes
If you haven’t thought lately about your risk for developing diabetes, there is no better time than now. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study this summer that reports one in every three Americans – more than 100 million people – is living with pre-diabetes or diabetes. What’s equally concerning is the report found that 1 in 4 adults living with diabetes doesn’t even know they have it, and only 11.6 percent of adults with prediabetes know they have it. Diabetes is a serious illness that affects your body’s ability to regulate sugar. When untreated, its impact is so pervasive that it can lead to a wide array of other major health complications – including stroke, heart attack and blindness.
People at higher risk for diabetes include people who are overweight or obese; have a family history; developed gestational diabetes while pregnant; smokers; some ethnic groups, including African Americans and Mexican Americans; and people diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes is when blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. Approximately 25 percent of people with prediabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes in the next three to five years.
Dr. Matthew Corcoran, an endocrinologist and diabetes expert with Shore Physicians Group, says the good news is there are many steps people who are at risk or who have pre-diabetes can take today to reduce their likelihood of developing the disease.
“The three keys to diabetes prevention are weight loss, improved nutrition and adequate physical activity,” says Dr. Corcoran. “While there are many medications and technologies that help manage diabetes once you are diagnosed, the best decision you can make if you are at risk is to make lifestyle changes today to prevent the onset of diabetes.”
Here are some helpful tips to get you started:
- Set a goal to lose 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. Losing weight helps reduce the burden on your pancreas, which produces the insulin that controls blood sugar. For a 200-lb person, 5 to 10 percent amounts to just 10 to 20 lbs. Using apps like MyFitnessPal or LoseIt and fitness tracking devices can help you reach your goals. If weight loss is your primary goal, consider scheduling an appointment with a dietitian through Shore Medical Center’s Outpatient Nutrition Counseling program.
- Decide on a favorite physical activity. Do you love dancing, or is strength training your thing? Maybe you enjoy a brisk walk, or prefer riding your bike? Whatever it is, try to fit 30 minutes of moderate activity that you enjoy into your schedule five days a week, or a cumulative total of at least 150 minutes a week. There are even apps that can guide you through short (think 7 minutes) workouts you can do right in your living room or office. “If it’s difficult for you to find 30 minutes for moderate exercise, even committing to a 3-minute brisk walk every hour throughout the work day can make a difference, as long as you work your way up to 150 minutes throughout the week,” Dr. Corcoran says. Not sure what moderate activity is? Use the ‘talk test’. With moderate exercise, you can still carry on a conversation without gasping for air.
- Stop at the grocery store. On your way home, grab some berries, spinach and almonds for a nice salad, with enough to have for lunch for a few days. Berries satisfy your sweet tooth, but have a low glycemic index and are loaded with fiber. Nuts like almonds and walnuts have good fats that can help ward off type 2 diabetes. Greens like spinach are great because they have antioxidants which help prevent diabetes. There are many other foods that have been known to help fight diabetes. To learn more, visit http://www.eatright.org/, the consumer website hosted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Build a recipe library. There are a million blogs, websites, apps and Pinterest boards with healthy recipes just waiting for you to discover! Find those specific to diabetes prevention and choose a few easy, highly rated recipes that are low in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables. Dedicate a few hours each weekend to prep for the week. Invest in a slow cooker or pressure cooker that can cut the time it takes to prepare healthier meals.
- If you smoke, decide to quit. Smokers are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers. In 2014 the Surgeon General reported a direct causal link between smoking and diabetes. Shore Medical Center offers a Tobacco Prevention and Treatment Program, which uses individual counseling sessions and nicotine replacement medications to help you quit once and for all.
- Get a good night’s sleep. If you’re consistently getting a poor night’s sleep, this could increase your risk of developing diabetes, for a number of reasons. When you’re tired, it’s more likely you’ll reach for unhealthy foods heavy in sugars and carbohydrates to give you energy your body is lacking. Also, sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea can disrupt the production of insulin. In fact, 72 percent of people with type 2 diabetes also have obstructive sleep apnea. Shore Medical Center can help diagnose and treat sleep disorders at its Center for Sleep Medicine. Before you go that route, however, make sure you’re following basic guidelines for better sleep, featured here.
While these tips are all good places to start, Dr. Corcoran emphasizes that developing an individualized diabetes prevention program tailored to your own schedule, interests and motivators is the key to success.
“If you find that you’re not doing well sticking to your own plan, or you would like help, seek a professional. Many insurances cover a number of sessions with a diabetes educator or registered dietitian who can help you understand your diabetes risk factors and develop a plan to help you reach your goals, regardless of whether you have been diagnosed with diabetes. You may be surprised to learn how affordable it is to get the help you need.”
Dr. Matthew Corcoran joined Shore Physicians Group in October 2017 and sees patients at their Northfield office, located at 2605 Shore Road. If you would like to schedule an appointment, call 609-365-5300.