Changing your lifestyle is a big step toward preventing diabetes, and it’s never too late to start. Keep these tips in mind.
Lifestyle changes can help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease. Prevention is especially important if you are currently at increased risk for type 2 diabetes due to excess weight or obesity, high cholesterol levels, or a family history of diabetes.
If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes (an elevated blood glucose level that does not meet the threshold for a diabetes diagnosis), lifestyle changes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease.
Making some lifestyle changes now can help you avoid serious complications of diabetes in the future, such as nerve, kidney and heart damage. It’s never too late to start.
1. Lose excess weight
Losing weight reduces the risk of diabetes. People who participated in a large study reduced their risk of developing diabetes by nearly 60% after losing about 7% of their body weight with changes in physical activity and diet.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with prediabetes lose at least 7% to 10% of their weight to prevent progression of the disease. The more weight you lose, the greater the benefits.
Determine a weight loss goal based on your current weight. Talk to your doctor about reasonable short-term goals and expectations, such as losing 1 to 2 pounds per week.
2. Get more physical activity.
Regular physical activity has many benefits. Exercise can help you:
- Lose weight.
- Lower your blood glucose level
- Increase your insulin sensitivity, which helps keep your blood glucose in a normal range.
For most adults, the goals of promoting weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight are as follows:
- Aerobic exercise. Aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, bicycling, or running, on most days for a total of at least 150 minutes per week.
- Resistance exercise. Resistance exercise, if done 2 to 3 times per week, increases strength, balance, and the ability to maintain an active lifestyle. Resistance training includes weight lifting, yoga and calisthenics.
- Limited inactivity. Pausing prolonged periods of inactivity, such as sitting at the computer, can help control blood glucose levels. Take a few minutes to stand, walk or do some light activity every 30 minutes.
3. Eat healthy plant foods.
Vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates to your diet. Carbohydrates include sugars and starches (the energy sources for your body) and fiber. Dietary fiber, also known as dietary or dietary fiber, includes the parts of plant foods that the body cannot digest or absorb.
Foods high in fiber promote weight loss and reduce the risk of diabetes. Eat a variety of healthy foods that are high in fiber, for example:
- Fruits, such as tomatoes, peppers and tree fruits.
- Non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, broccoli and cauliflower
- Legumes, such as beans, chickpeas and lentils
- Whole grains, such as whole-grain pastas and breads, brown rice, whole oats and quinoa
Here are some benefits of fiber:
- It slows the absorption of sugars and lowers blood glucose levels.
- Interferes with the absorption of dietary cholesterol and fat.
- Controls other risk factors that affect heart health, such as blood pressure and inflammation.
- Helps you eat less because high-fiber foods produce greater satiety and provide lots of energy.
Avoid foods that are “bad carbs,” meaning those that are high in sugar with little fiber or nutrients: white bread and baked goods, white flour pasta, fruit juices, and processed foods with sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
4. Eat healthy fats
Fatty foods are high in calories and should be consumed in moderation. To lose weight and help control weight, your diet should include a variety of foods with unsaturated fats, which are sometimes called “good fats”.
Unsaturated fats, both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, promote healthy cholesterol levels and good heart and vascular health. Here are some sources of healthy fats:
- Olive, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed and canola oils.
- Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, peanuts, flaxseed and pumpkin seeds
- Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and cod
- Saturated fats, the “bad fats”, are in dairy and meats. These fats should be a reduced part of your diet. You can limit saturated fats by eating low-fat dairy products and lean poultry and pork.
5. Skip the fad diets and make healthier choices.
Many fad diets, such as glycemic index diets, ketogenic diets or paleolithic diets, can help you lose weight. However, there is very little research about the long-term benefits of these diets or their benefit in preventing diabetes.
Your dieting goal should be to lose weight and then maintain a healthier weight thereafter. Therefore, healthy eating choices should include a strategy that you can maintain as a lifelong habit. Making healthy choices that reflect some of your own food preferences and traditions can be beneficial to you over time.
Dividing your plate is a simple strategy to help you make optimal food choices and eat appropriate portion sizes. These three divisions on your plate promote healthy eating:
- One half: fruits and non-starchy vegetables.
- One quarter: whole grains
- One-fourth: protein-rich foods, such as legumes, fish or lean meats
- When to consult your doctor
- The American Diabetes Association recommends routine screening with diagnostic tests for type 2
diabetes in all adults age 45 and older, and in the following groups:
- People younger than 45 years who are overweight or obese, and have one or more diabetes-related risk factors.
- Women who have had gestational diabetes.
- People who have been diagnosed with prediabetes.
- Children who are overweight or obese and have a family history of type 2 diabetes or other risk factors.
Talk to your doctor about your concerns and how to prevent diabetes. He or she will welcome your efforts to prevent diabetes and may give you further suggestions, based on your medical history and other factors.