The only bright side to diabetes is that it usually doesn’t develop overnight. Warning signs – and opportunities to do something about them – often are lurking for years. Heading diabetes off at the pass may be a lot easier than you think. Minor lifestyle changes – really, they’re things you should be doing anyway – can dramatically lower your chances of ever having to deal with it.
Take off your blinders; look at your risk
And diabetes is nothing to mess around with. It can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart disease – and even raise your risk for some types of cancer.
First, it’s a good idea to know your risk. You’re more likely to develop diabetes if you:
- Are over 45 years old
- Are overweight
- Have relatives with diabetes
- Don’t exercise
- Have high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Are African American or Hispanic
- Had gestational diabetes
Throw away the remote and the ice cream. Even if you’re at risk, you don’t have to resign yourself to developing diabetes. In fact, a large national study* of more than 3,000 people showed that diabetes often can be prevented – or at least delayed – if people follow a few simple steps. Like I said, you’ve probably heard them all before.
Drop a few (or more) pounds. Even 5% to 7% of your weight can make a difference.
Get moving. Try to be active almost every day, even if it’s just a walk around the block or some puttering in the garden. Aim for 30 minutes, five days a week. Of course, get the go-ahead from your doctor first.
Watch what you put in your body.
- Cut down on fats
- Eat lots of fiber and whole grains
- Shovel in fresh fruits and veggies; nibble on red meat
- Shun fried foods and high-fat foods
- Avoid foods high in salt or sugar
- Walk away from fad diets, like high protein
- Consider talking to a nutritionist if you aren’t sure where to start
Start a dialogue with your doctor. At your annual check-up (don’t delay; schedule today), ask about your risk and how you can nip diabetes in the bud.