Preventing Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and for 2021 the emphasis is on preventing diabetes. According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 34.2 million Americans have diabetes and 88 million American adults have prediabetes. That adds up to one third of American adults. 

And most of them don’t know that they have diabetes or prediabetes. 

For those who have prediabetes, lifestyle changes can reduce their chances of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58% if they’re under 60 and a whopping 71% if they are over 60.

Symptoms of diabetes

Sometimes symptoms of diabetes are so mild that they can be missed. Here are some early signs of diabetes:

  • thirst
  • hunger
  • fatigue
  • blurry vision

It’s a good plan to ask your primary care physician to check for diabetes if you have any of the risks: for example, if you are overweight or you have family members with diabetes. 

A common test for diabetes is the A1C test, a blood test which measures your blood glucose level over several months. 

  • Below 5.7 is normal.
  • 5.7 – 6.5 is a prediabetic level.
  • Above 6.5 indicates diabetes.

If you have prediabetes

If your blood glucose is between 5.7and 6.5, you should take steps to prevent diabetes. 

  • Lose weight if you are overweight. A loss of 5% can be enough to make a difference. That means that a person weighing 200 pounds could help delay or avoid diabetes by losing just 10 pounds.
  • Eat healthy, focusing on nonstarchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein including fish. Avoid sugar and reduce fat intake. Increase fiber
  • Get regular exercise. Walking is an easy way to increase activity. Add a 30 minute walk to your routine most days. Swimming, cycling, and dancing are other good options. Aim for 150 minutes each week of moderate exercise.
  • Stop smoking or don’t start.

While some of the risk factors for diabetes are not under your control, diet and exercise are your decisions. That’s a good reason to focus on these choices.

Managing diabetes

Over the past two decades, diabetes patients have seen lower rates of heart disease and stroke. Without management of their diabetes, diabetics may have as much as twice the chance of a stroke as a person without diabetes. With good management that controls blood sugar levels, diabetics can lead long, healthy lives. 

  • Check blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Discuss realistic goals with your doctor. 
  • Eat healthy, with a balance of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
  • Stay active. Aim for 150 minutes each week of cardio. That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Add strength training twice a week. Resistance training helps your body use insulin better.
  • Follow your doctor’s orders on medications. 

About 13% of American adults have diabetes, and millions more have prediabetes. 79,000 deaths each year are attributable to diabetes. Increasing awareness of these conditions and the actions that can help prevent or manage diabetes can help reduce these numbers.