Tips to Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

If you're losing weight, you're already following the number one course for diabetes prevention. Follow these five tips to further reduce your risk.
Tips to Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
JANUARY, 2008—You've heard it before: One of the gravest threats obesity poses to a person's health is raising their risk of type 2 diabetes. Unlike type 1 diabetes, in which the pancreas does not produce insulin, type 2 (or adult-onset) diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels remain too high because cells are no longer sensitive to insulin or the pancreas has exhausted its ability to produce enough insulin.

The disease has reached epidemic status. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 21 million Americans have diabetes, of which 6 million are unaware of their condition. Another 41 million have prediabetes, a condition in which glucose levels are elevated but still below diabetic levels.

Every overweight person is at risk of having prediabetes, says Vanessa Rein, MD, of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania's Rodebaugh Diabetes Center.

Diabetes, especially when it is not controlled, can cause blindness, impotence, loss of a limb, heart attack and stroke; it's now the country's sixth leading cause of death, according to the CDC.

If you're losing weight, you're already following the number one course for prevention. Follow these tips to help reduce your risk.

Get screened regularly.
Early detection—especially of prediabetes—is critical. The CDC recommends that individuals over age 45 get a blood test every three years. "You should get screened earlier and more frequently if you have other risk factors and are overweight," says Rein.

A family history of diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are red flags. And people with prediabetes should be screened every year, she adds.

Also, be on the lookout for symptoms including increased thirst, hunger, nighttime urination, fatigue and blurred vision. If any of these are a concern, schedule an appointment with your doctor and be sure to tell him or her what symptoms you're having.

Maintain a healthy weight.
While research has implicated the high-fat Western diet that's heavy in refined carbohydrates, "no specific food has been specifically linked to the development of diabetes," says Leonid Poretsky, MD, co-director of the Diabetes Institute at Beth Israel Hospital in New York. "When it comes to eating, it's not so much what you eat, even in terms of carbohydrates, but how much you change your total caloric intake" if you need to lose weight explains Poretsky Obesity is a major risk factor. Fortunately, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can significantly decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So start today; there’s no time like the present.

Get 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day.
Larry Deeb, MD, president of medicine and science at the American Diabetes Association, says a study found that subjects with prediabetes who exercised a half hour a day—even if they just walked at a slow pace—were 58 percent less likely to develop diabetes over a two-year period than those who didn't exercise.

Limit screen time to two hours a day.
Research has linked TV watching to diabetes, and it's not hard to figure out why. TV watchers tend to be more sedentary. Someone who watches TV more than three hours a day has a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and is 50 percent more likely to be obese than those who watch less than two hours daily. Internet time counts, as well. Try to limit your screen time and replace it with activity.

Eat a healthy diet.
Eating a diet rich in foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy products is important to help maintain a healthy weight. As mentioned above, no specific foods cause diabetes, but if you are overweight, losing weight is very important, and eating a balanced diet is an important component. Also, by eating right in addition to other components, you may decrease your risk of high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease, other risk factors for diabetes.

About the Writer
Brian Hickey is the managing editor of the Philadelphia City Paper and has written for Details, Men's Health and Philadelphia Magazine.

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