By Eric M. Folkens, M.D., – Family Medicine
Have you wondered or possibly been told that you are at risk for developing diabetes or that you have prediabetes? The latest diabetes statistics show that one in three American adults are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. 79 million American adults have prediabetes, which means that their blood glucose (sugar) is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. What’s more, out of the nearly 26 million Americans with diabetes, one-fourth of them, or about 7 million, does not realize they have the disease.
Studies show that people at high risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing five to seven percent of their weight, if they are overweight—that’s 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Two keys to success:
• Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week.
• Eat a variety of foods that are low in fat and reduce the number of calories you eat per day.
In other words, you don’t have to knock yourself out to prevent diabetes.
Small steps lead to big rewards.
When you take steps to prevent diabetes, you will also lower your risk for possible complications of diabetes such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, and other health problems. That’s a big reward for you and your family and friends.
One Small Step: Know your risk.
Work with your health care team to find out if you have prediabetes, a condition that puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes.
Big Reward: Knowing you can prevent or delay diabetes can give you peace of mind. Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers.
• Why do you want to prevent diabetes?
• Who do you want to do it for?
Review your answers every week to help you stay with your prevention plan.
Plan to set a weight loss goal:
The key to preventing diabetes is to lose weight by eating healthy foods that are lower in fat and calories and being physically active. Set a goal that you can achieve.
Here’s how to figure out your weight loss goal. Multiply your weight by the percent you want to lose. For example, if John weighs 240 pounds and wants to lose 7 percent of his weight, he would multiply 240 by .07, for a total of 17 pounds.
Losing 5 to 7 percent of your weight is one big step to reduce your risk of diabetes.
Choose a total weight loss goal and start thinking about how much better you will feel when you reach your goal. Keep in mind that losing even a small amount of weight can help you prevent diabetes. Weigh yourself at least once a week and write down your progress. Research shows that people who keep track of their weight reach their goals more often than those who don’t.
Make healthy food choice to help reach your weight loss goal. There are many weight loss plans from which to choose. You can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes by losing weight through a low-fat, reduced calorie eating plan, and by increasing physical activity.
Figure out how many calories and fat grams you should have per day. Use this chart to figure out your goals for losing one to two pounds per week.
One Small Step: Move more.
When you move more every day, you will burn more calories. This will help you reach your weight loss goal. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week. If you have not been active, start off slowly, building up to your goal. Try brisk walking, dancing, swimming, biking, jogging, or any physical activity that helps get your heart rate up. You don’t have to get all your physical activity at one time. Try getting some physical activity throughout the day in 10 minute sessions.
Big Reward:Losing weight by eating healthy and getting more physical activity not only can help you prevent diabetes, but it also lowers your risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer, arthritis, and many other health problems. Also, you will feel better, and have more energy to do the things you enjoy.
One Small Step: Track your progress.
Write down your goals. Write down everything you eat and drink. Then, when you have time add up your calories and fat grams for the day.
Big Reward: Keeping track of what you eat and drink and how many minutes of physical activity you get each day is one of the best ways to stay focused and reach your goals. As you lose weight, you will feel better about yourself and about reaching your goal.
One Small Step: Start your own team to prevent diabetes.
You don’t have to prevent diabetes alone. Invite other people to get involved. Try teaming up with a friend or family member. Start a local walking group with your neighbors or at work or at your church. Trade healthy recipes and weight loss tips with your co-workers. Tell other people about the small steps you are taking to prevent diabetes and make sure you help each other stick to your prevention plan.
Big Reward: When you involve other people, you will be more likely to stay at it and you will be helping others to prevent diabetes and other health problems.
Take your next small step now!
Add one or two healthy changes every week. If you fall off the wagon, don’t get down on yourself. Review your plan and get back on track. It’s not easy to make lifelong changes in what you eat and in your level of physical activity, but you can use these tips to help you stick to your goals and succeed. Always remember: Preventing diabetes is good for you and for your family and friends. Keep at it!
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