Whether directly or indirectly, diabetes affects us all. In fact, more than 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and another 88 million have prediabetes, which puts them at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s a loved one. Either way, the impact is real.
November is American Diabetes Month, an observance that seeks to raise awareness of this all-too-common disease and those it affects. With that awareness comes hope, as we rally together around preventing diabetes and reducing the devastating impact it has on our nation.
Diabetes can lead to a host of health problems, including increased risk of heart attack, kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage and amputations.
You may know that type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. But its more prevalent counterpart, type 2 diabetes, can. Smart, sensible lifestyle choices can make all the difference when it comes to preventing or managing this potentially severe disease.
It’s widely understood that the obesity problem in this country is directly linked to the increase in cases of type 2 diabetes. As a population, we eat too much and don’t move enough—and yet too few of us are willing or able to make a meaningful change. I’m here to tell you that you can do it.
The good news? Even small changes can add up in a big way. The Diabetes Prevention Program, a major federally funded study, showed that individuals can delay or even prevent diabetes by losing just 5 to 7 percent of their body weight through regular physical activity and healthier eating.
So where should you start? When it comes to your diet, make a more vibrant plate by adding more delicious, fresh fruits and veggies in a variety of colors. Choose whole grains, leaner meats, lower-fat dairy—and eat fewer sugary meals and snacks. Eliminate or strictly limit soda.
It helps to keep an eye on your portion sizes (especially when eating out). Consider using smaller plates—you may eat less if your plate looks fuller. You’ll also eat less if you slow down and give your brain time to register the fact that you’re getting full.
If you’re unsure where to begin with exercise, try walking—it gets the heart pumping and burns calories. It’s easy (and free!) to do. Schedule at least 30 minutes of exercise most days, treating it like you would any appointment so you make time. Team up with a workout buddy for added fun and accountability.
You can also incorporate movement throughout your day—in small ways that can add up to make a big difference. Park farther from the door, take the stairs instead of the elevator and take frequent activity breaks if you work a desk job. Ten jumping jacks here, an extra 10 minutes of walking there, and pretty soon you’re adding significant movement to your day.
Changing your lifestyle can seem overwhelming, so consider starting with one or two improvements and going from there. Soon you’ll start feeling better, reaching a healthier weight—and reducing your chances of being a diabetes statistic.
You can do this. Start today.
Lynda Bahde, FNP, works at Bellin Health Marinette.