Reducing your risk of diabetes

Don’t be one of the 1.3 million people diagnosed this year

diabetesA staggering 1.3 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with diabetes this year.  And, although people with diabetes can prevent or delay complications by keeping blood glucose levels close to normal, preventing or delaying the development of it in the first place is even better.

According to Tres Aaron Barrera, MD, Endocrinologist at Scott & White Clinic – Round Rock, “diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal and therefore, blood sugar levels need to be regularly monitored. Elevated blood sugars that are not controlled for a long period can lead to damages to nerves and blood vessels, and lead to serious complications,” Dr. Barrera explains. “This includes heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve problems, gum infections, and even amputation.”

Those at greatest risk for developing diabetes include men and women over the age of 40, being overweight, having a family history, women who have given birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds, and those who engage in little or no physical activity.  Yet, for those at high risk, a moderate diet and regular exercise that results in a 6 to 10 percent weight loss can delay and possibly even prevent diabetes.

So, exactly what can you do to lower your chances of getting diabetes? Dr. Barrera says, “there’s a lot you can do including regular exercise, reducing saturated fat and overall caloric intake, and losing body fat can all help reduce your risk.” Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels will also help you stay healthy. Your physician and/or a dietitian can help you create a plan.

The following are some of the areas you may wish to change to reduce your risk of diabetes:

Reach and Maintain a Reasonable Body Weight

Your weight affects your health in many ways.  Being overweight can keep your body from making and using insulin properly and can also cause high blood pressure.

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body weight relative to height. You can use BMI to see whether you are underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. Use the body mass index table below to find your BMI.

If you are overweight or obese, set a reasonable weight-loss goal, such as losing one pound a week. Aim for a long-term goal of losing 5 to 7 percent of your total body weight.

Make Wise Food Choices Most of the Time

  • Avoid crash diets. Instead, eat less of the foods you usually have and limit the amount of saturated fat you eat.
  • Take a close look at the portions of the foods you eat.  Reducing portions of main courses (such as meat), desserts, and foods high in fat while increasing your fiber through vegetables and small amounts of fresh fruit.
  • Limit your fat intake to about 25 percent of your total calories.  For example, if your food choices add up to about 2,000 calories a day, try to eat no more than 56 grams of fat.
  • You may also wish to reduce the number of calories you take in each day.  Your doctor or dietitian can help you with a meal plan that emphasizes body fat loss.
  • Keep a food and exercise log by writing down what you eat and how much you exercise.
  • When you meet your goal, reward yourself with a non-food item or activity, like watching a movie.

Be Physically Active Every Day

  • Regular exercise tackles several risk factors at once.  It helps reduce risk of weight regain, keeps your cholesterol and blood pressure under control, and helps your body use sugar.
  • If you are not very active, you should start slowly, talking with your doctor first about what kinds of exercise would be safe for you.  Make a plan to increase your activity level toward the goal of being active for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
  • Choose activities you enjoy.
  • Work extra activity into your daily routine by taking the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator, parking at the far end of the lot and walk, getting off the bus a few stops early and walking the rest of the way, and walking or bicycling instead of driving whenever possible.

Take Your Prescribed Medications

  • Some patients need medication to help control their blood pressure or cholesterol levels.  If you do, take them as directed by your physician.

For additional information on diabetes, visit our website.

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Reducing your risk of diabetes