November is a time devoted to raising awareness and understanding of diabetes—a disease that affects the lives of 29 million Americans living with diabetes, 86 million adults with prediabetes, and countless family and friends caring for loved ones. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease, accounting for 90-95 percent of people living with diabetes (PWDs), and is on the rise worldwide. The good news is that lifestyle changes can help delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes. Here are three tips that can help you manage and take control of type 2 diabetes.
- Lose weight.
Obesity or weight gain is one of the strongest risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Following a balanced, healthy eating plan, managing portion sizes and keeping track of total daily calorie intake are all important strategies for healthy weight management. And achieving a healthy weight can pay off. Studies have shown that losing just 5 to 7 percent of body weight—about 10 to 15 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds—can help improve blood glucose control and delay or potentially prevent type 2 diabetes. A registered dietitian nutritionist or certified diabetes educator can help you create a simple, personalized eating plan that fits your lifestyle and keeps you on track to achieving your healthy weight goal.
- Eat healthy.
While enjoying meals and favorite foods when you have diabetes can seem daunting, most experts agree that the guidelines for eating a healthy, balanced diet for overall health and wellness apply to everyone, including people with diabetes. Science has evolved from previously advising a “sugar-free” diet to managing total carbohydrate intake as one of the cornerstones of diabetes management. Make your carbs count by focusing on nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low and non-fat dairy foods along with lean proteins, while limiting foods high in added sugars and saturated fat, which are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Check out the American Diabetes Association’s top 10 diabetes “superfoods” for a list of foods that can power-up your meal plans with essential nutrients. And don’t forget to factor in your beverage choices. Studies suggest that a high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages increases the chances of developing early warning signs for type 2 diabetes. Water is the clear choice for staying hydrated, in addition to no-calorie options like coffee (without added sugar), unsweetened tea and other zero-calorie beverages.
- Be more physically active.
In addition to helping you maintain a healthy body weight, increasing physical activity can also help decrease your risk of diabetes along with many other diseases such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers, and high blood pressure. The American Diabetes Association recently issued an updated Position Statement that reinforces the benefits of regular physical activity for blood glucose control and overall health, recommending at least 150-175 minutes of exercise per week, and encouraging adults to decrease their total daily amount of sedentary time and to break up sitting time with frequent bouts of activity. This advice is more specific than their previous recommendation for movement every 90 minutes, now suggesting periods of sitting be interspersed with at least 3 minutes of light physical activity—such as walking, leg lifts, torso twists, or overhead arm stretches—every 30 minutes.
Finding a form of exercise that can easily fit into your daily routine and that you enjoy will increase your chances of making it a lifelong habit. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider about an exercise plan that’s tailored to meet your specific needs and is safe for you.
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