Decoding Diabetes: 7 steps to prevention

By Mary Tvedt Jun 26, 2015

As many as 79 million people in the United States have prediabetes, yet more than 90 percent of them don’t know it. People with pre-diabetes usually have no symptoms, and many who learn about their pre-diabetes think it’s no big deal.

The best way to get your blood sugar into the normal range is with a coordinated plan of healthy nutrition, increased physical activity and lifestyle strategies that support modest weight loss if you are overweight – 5 to 10 percent of your body weight.  Research shows that such a plan reduces diabetes risk even better than using medication.

You may see improvements in glucose levels in as little as three months. If you have pre-diabetes, don’t wait to make lifestyle changes. The window to turn around elevated glucose levels is only three to six years.

You have the power to prevent diabetes. Here are seven ways to get started:

1. Move more. Get up, get out, and get moving. Try walking, dancing, bike riding, swimming or playing ball with your friends or family. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you enjoy it. Try different activities so you don’t get bored.

2. Eat the healthy plate way. Focus on eating less and making healthy food choices including dried beans, whole grains,  three to five servings of vegetables and one to two servings of fruit per day. Cut down on fatty and fried foods. Eat the foods you enjoy, just eat less of them.

 3. Lose some weight. Once you start eating less and moving more, you will lose weight. By losing even 10 pounds, you can cut your chances of developing diabetes.

4. Set goals you can meet. Start by making small changes. Try for 15 minutes of activity a day this week.  Add 5 more minutes each week after until you are active 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week. Try to cut 100 calories (or one can of soda) out of your diet each day. Slowly reduce your calories over time and talk to your health care team about your goals.

5. Record your progress. Keep a food and exercise diary. Write down all the calories you eat and drink and the number of minutes you are active. This is one of the best ways to lose weight and keep it off.

6. Get help. You don’t have to prevent diabetes alone. Involve family and friends in your plans and activities. You can help each other move more, eat less and live a healthier life. Active groups in your area can also help, as can your healthcare team.

7. Keep at it. Making even small changes is hard in the beginning. Try adding one new change a week. If you get off track, start again and keep at it.

Know your risk

The American Diabetes Association recommends you be tested for pre-diabetes if:

* You are overweight and 45 years or older
* You are 45 or older and your doctor recommends testing
* You are overweight with a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides
* You are a woman who had gestational diabetes and/or gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
* You are of an ethnic group with a high risk of developing diabetes and have discussed the risks with your doctor. Ethnic groups with a higher risk include African American, Native American, Hispanic and Asian.

Mary Tvedt

Mary Tvedt is a certified diabetes educator. She has a bachelor’s degree in foods and human nutrition with a minor in child development and family science from North Dakota State University. If you have concerns about diabetes talk to your doctor. To learn more about services at the Diabetes Care Center, call (307) 577-2592. 

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