More than 23 million Americans have some form of diabetes, and more than 90 percent of these have type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes is preventable in many people with a few simple lifestyle changes.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a disorder in which the body either does not produce enough insulin or it does not process insulin efficiently. Insulin is essential to converting glucose to energy to fuel the body. The foods we eat, specifically carbohydrates, are broken down into glucose in the blood stream. They wait there for the pancreas to secrete insulin so that they can do their job.
In this type of diabetes, the body may not recognize the need to produce more insulin, or the insulin is unable to bond with the glucose to convert it to energy. In either case, blood sugar levels become abnormally high, and can cause numerous health problems.
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
There are numerous risk factors for type 2 diabetes. These risk factors include:
- Being overweight
- Having a family history of diabetes
- Being over 45 years of age
- Not exercising regularly
- Having high blood pressure or a low HDL cholesterol level
- Having an impaired fasting glucose (IFG) and/or impaired glucose intolerance (IGT)
- Belonging to at risk racial and ethnic groups such as Hispanic or Latin American, Asian American, Non-Hispanic Black, Pacific Islander, American Indian, or Alaska Native
- Women having gestational diabetes or who gave birth to a baby over nine pounds
- Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Having a history of cardiovascular disease
Two of the biggest risk groups are those who are overweight and the elderly (those over 60 years of age). As your weight and/or age increases, your risk for type 2 diabetes increases.
One of the best ways to prevent type 2 diabetes is by losing weight through exercise and changes in the diet. A clinical trial funded by the Diabetes Prevention Program found that those who lost weight by making dietary changes and increasing their physical activity reduced their chances of developing diabetes by 58 percent. The findings were even more significant for persons over the age of 60. When the elderly people in the study followed the guidelines, they reduced their type 2 diabetes risk by 71 percent. The average weight loss was 5-7 percent of their body weight.
To help reduce the risk of diabetes and loose weight, you should do moderate exercise 30 minutes a day at least five times a week. Weight loss is the most important factor in preventing diabetes for those who are overweight.
Eating Healthy to Prevent Diabetes
Eating healthy is essential in diabetes prevention. Consider the following when planning your meals:
- Majority of protein should come from legumes and fish
- Eat only lean cuts of red met
- At least half your carbohydrates should be from whole grain sources
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Eat foods high in fiber
- Vegetables should be non-starchy
- Choose dairy products that are low or no-fat.
- Reduce intake of high calorie snacks and desserts
- Control portion sizes
By following these recommendations on how you can prevent diabetes, hopefully you can significantly reduce your risk of getting the disease or prevent it altogether.