Diabetes is a chronic condition that continues to be a burden throughout the world. As we observe World Diabetes Day, let’s define some terms and talk about who is at risk. How does diabetes affect you or someone close to you?
Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes glucose to build up in your blood.
A person with prediabetes has a blood sugar level higher than normal, but not high enough yet for a diagnosis of diabetes. He or she is at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke.
You are at increased risk for developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes if you:
- Are 45 years of age or older.
- Are overweight.
- Have a parent with diabetes.
- Have a sister or brother with diabetes.
- Have a family background that is African-American, Hispanic/Latino, American-Indian, Asian-American, or Pacific-Islander.
- Had diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes), or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more.
- Are physically active less than three times a week.
What can you do to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes? We know of three things that together help prevent or delay this: healthy eating, physical activity, and weight management.
Healthy eating and physical activity are great concepts, but they can seem like lofty challenges on hectic days. To prevent or delay type 2 diabetes, as well as care for yourself if you have diabetes, eating well and increasing physical activity are an important part of a routine to ward off a host of problems. And with a bit of planning and careful scheduling, healthy eating and moving more can be both achievable and fun.
You already know that healthy eating is important and the right thing to do, both for yourself and for your family. The latest diabetes numbers tell the story: 382 million are living with diabetes worldwide. In addition, 86 million Americans have prediabetes, and 9 out of 10 of them don’t know they have it. If you pay attention to your body’s cues, you know how much better you feel with a consistent approach to good nutrition. Cooking with your family can be a great way to spend time together, encouraging one another while sharing food preparation and even trying new things to eat. This can work with adults as well as children!
Healthy meals don’t have to mean more shopping trips or additional preparation time. There are many free resources with updated healthy recipes, even for those who want 30-minute or less meals, low sodium items, vegan dishes, etc. It’s easy to spark your imagination and find something new and healthy to cook. In fact, this year the American Diabetes Association’s November diabetes month theme is “Get Cooking to Stop Diabetes.” Small changes can make a big difference.
For increasing physical activity, we’re not talking about adding hours of daily physical activity. Limiting calorie intake, as well as moving more, is essential to losing weight. We know this: research shows that modest weight loss and regular physical activity can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by up to 58% in people with prediabetes. Modest weight loss means 5% to 7% of body weight, which is 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Getting at least 150 minutes each week of physical activity, such as brisk walking, is important. May not be able to start at 150 minutes each week, but start with a few a few minutes each day and increase the time so you can reach this goal.
Some people like to work out first thing in the morning, which can be great if you have children and schedule after-school activities. Or, you can walk, ride a bike, jog or even go to the gym directly after work (do not go home, avoid the couch). Others like to use lunchtime to work out in a fitness center or take a brisk walk outside. Use the stairs, or have a walking meeting. If you can find just ten minutes here and there throughout the day, that’s good, too.
If you have prediabetes and want additional help making these changes, consider finding a local program of the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program. This is currently offered in the United States and U.S. territories. Lifestyle coaches work with participants to identify helpful tools and techniques as well as emotions and situations that can sabotage their success, and the group process encourages participants to share strategies for dealing with challenges.
Here are more resources for delicious meals and tips for physical activity:
- Great recipes that are quick and healthy.
- How you can add physical activity to your day.
- Tasty recipes for those with diabetes and their families.
- Take charge of your diabetes/ Controle su diabetes (Spanish)
On this day to ponder the effects of diabetes throughout the world, take time to eat right and move more.