Where do you start?
Type 2 diabetes is a preventable chronic disease, which means there are steps you can take to avoid it. Even if your family history puts you at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, adopting a certain lifestyle can keep you healthy and in control. It is not always easy to make these changes, but there are tools that can help. Keep reading for resources that can help you, your family and friends make the change to stay healthy!
Follow MyPlate Guidelines
Guidelines tell us that we need to eat protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy, but how much? How often? MyPlate is an excellent, free resource that can help us build a plate that fits our needs. With MyPlate, you can find the right diet for you and discover correct portion sizes for your individual needs. If you are looking to find more specific meals, MyPlate Kitchen is a great resource for healthy and balanced recipes.
Lose Excess Weight (the Healthy Way!)
Being overweight or obese is one of the major risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Excess weight causes inflammation which can then lead to increased insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with prediabetes lose at least 7% to 10% of their body weight to prevent disease progression. Weight loss is a long journey, but patience is important. The only way to lose fat permanently is through slow and steady weight loss. So, how can you achieve this?
● Follow the MyPlate guidelines and eat a balanced diet
● Eat snacks high in protein and fiber
● Limit alcohol consumption
● Limit consumption of foods and beverages with added sugars
● Drink plenty of water
● Follow a slight calorie deficit (burn more calories than you consume)
● Incorporate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day
● Stop following fad diets. An easy way to determine if a diet is a fad diet is if it promises quick weight loss and eliminates an entire food group (i.e. carbohydrates)
Make sure you also consult your primary care provider or registered dietitian when considering beginning weight loss. Professional advice can help you on your journey.
Eat Healthy Fats
Did you know that some fats are actually good for you? There is an assumption that fats are unhealthy, but some fats help you function, absorb vitamins, store energy and keep you fuller for longer. These fats are known as unsaturated fats, also known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fats improve your “good” cholesterol levels, your heart health and overall functioning. In addition, they also improve your insulin and blood sugar levels. Some good sources of healthy unsaturated fats are:
● Nuts, like almonds, Brazil nuts and walnuts
● Seeds, like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds
● Fatty fish, like fresh tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout
● Olives and olive oil
● Vegetable oils
The fats that need to be consumed in smaller amounts are saturated fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, and usually found in meat and dairy products. To limit high amounts of saturated fats, try eating low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and avoid deep fat fried foods, including pastries and even some frozen foods. Trans fats need to be avoided, as they are deemed extremely unhealthy. Consumption of trans fats can lead to several health complications, including stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
Eat Enough Fiber
Dietary fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet, and lowers your risk of diabetes, as well as obesity and other food related diseases. It also helps with weight loss. Make sure that you eat a variety of healthy foods full of fiber, including vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Most foods that contain fiber are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates as well!
Physical activity is not only good for weight loss, but as a daily habit. Exercising for just 30 minutes a day not only helps prevent diabetes, but also has many other health benefits. Exercising increases energy, improves mood and helps with brain function. Unfortunately, many of us have sedentary lifestyles, and sitting for long periods of time can have negative effects on our health. At minimum, it is important to take breaks, like short walks and stretching, throughout the day to avoid health issues due to inactivity. If you are able, try aiming for more exercise throughout the day. If you want to lose weight, maintain weight loss, or benefit your health more, you can do more than 30 minutes of exercise. Some moderate exercises include:
● Brisk walking
● Mowing the lawn
Find what exercise works for you. Enjoying your physical activity will increase the chances of you making it a habit. Get your heart rate up in a sustainable and maintainable way! Check out the CDC’s tips and recommendations on how to move more and sit less in greater detail.
Get Adequate Sleep
Did you know that poor sleep contributes to insulin resistance, prediabetes, and diabetes? Multiple studies have shown that poor sleep, including inadequate, excessive, and irregular sleep, promotes glucose intolerance even without other diabetes risk factors. The average person should try to get roughly 7-8 hours of sleep per night and keep a consistent bedtime routine. To get a better night’s rest, it may be helpful to create a comfortable sleep environment and avoid working, reading, or sitting on the phone in bed. If you are having trouble sleeping and suffer from restless nights, please talk to your doctor.
Visit Your Primary Healthcare Provider
There are many causes and varying risk factors for type 2 diabetes and getting the proper support will help you on your journey. Please check with your health provider to be properly tested and screened. The American Diabetes Association recommends routine diabetes screening for:
● All adults aged 45 or older
● People younger than 45 who are overweight, obese, and/or have one or more diabetes risk factors
● Women who have had gestational diabetes
● People who have been diagnosed with prediabetes
● Children who are overweight or obese and who have a family history of type 2 diabetes or other risk factors
If you are unsure if you have diabetes risk factors and do not have a diagnosis, pay attention to any symptoms that may appear. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends visiting your doctor for a potential diagnosis if you notice frequent urination, blurry vision, or any other symptoms listed on their site.