We’re continuing our blog post on what you should know about diabetes as we support Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes is rapidly becoming a crisis in the U.S. as it is estimated that one and three people will have type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. While there are no known methods of preventing type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is highly preventable. Today we’re looking at the risk factors associated with diabetes and lifestyle habits that can help prevent or manage diabetes symptoms.
Risk Factors for Diabetes
There is currently no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes. Usually it begins in childhood, although it can present at any point in life, even in adults. Genetics, previous illness, environmental factors and diet may contribute to type 1 diabetes.
On the other hand, there are clearly pinpointed risk factors of type 2 diabetes. Knowing risk factors can help inform your health decisions and set a course of action to reduce your risk, detect the disease early and manage symptoms carefully.
- Weight: The leading risk factor of diabetes is being overweight or obese. Fat cells are more likely to become insulin resistant. The more fat cells you have, the more at risk you are.
- Genetics: Those with parents or siblings with diabetes are more likely to have it.
- Physical Activity: Not only does this play into managing weight, but being active also helps cells use sugar for energy and maintain balance between blood glucose levels and insulin production.
- Gestation: Many moms don’t know this but if you had gestational diabetes during pregnancy or gave birth to babies 9 lbs. or larger, you are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes in your lifetime.
- Age: Risk of diabetes increases with age.
- Race/Ethnicity: Some races and ethnic groups are predisposed to diabetes including African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.
- Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels: When your blood pressure and cholesterol are consistently and chronically high, you have a greater chance of becoming diabetic.
Lifestyle Habits to Prevent and Help Manage Diabetes
Because weight and inactivity are the leading risk factors of type 2 diabetes, they are also the areas to focus on to prevent diabetes or help manage symptoms. These tips apply to everyone, but are especially crucial for prediabetics or those who suffer from diabetes and are working hard to manage symptoms.
Weight loss is extremely helpful because fat cells are more likely to become insulin resistant. With less fatty tissue, your risk is reduced. Steady weight loss and then weight maintenance is the best way to go. Losing weight quickly and gaining it back will not help reduce your risk of diabetes so be smart about how you approach weight loss to ensure it is sustainable.
Exercise is essential to healthy bodies. At least 30 minutes of exercise daily is recommended. As you know, working out can range from structured classes, workout DVDs, and utilizing cardio and strength-building gym equipment, to walking or jogging, playing sports or partaking in a physically active hobby like biking or skiing. Exercise only works if it works for you. Select an activity that you enjoy and switch it up if you start getting bored. Also, incorporate more activity in your day including standing periodically, stretching and walking more. Being active helps your body use sugar for energy and keeps cells more sensitive to insulin needs.
Your diet, of course, is the second important piece. As with any healthy diet, you should limit fats (such as too much fatty meat and fried foods) and excessive simple carbohydrates; however most people are mistaken that they should go on a low carb diet to prevent diabetes. This type of fad diet is probably not sustainable and the right carbohydrates can actually help prevent diabetes. Choose whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables that are full of fiber. These help improve blood sugar levels and will keep you satiated for longer, which can assist in weight loss. Also, limit alcohol and quit smoking to maintain a healthier, disease-free body.
Diabetes Awareness Month helps us examine our personal health picture and is a reminder to encourage loved ones to do the same. Reducing risk, early detection and managing symptoms of diabetes can save lives. That’s why we’re bringing awareness to this serious cause and we hope you will too.
Sources: American Diabetes Association, Center for Disease Control and Mayo Clinic