Learn what you can do to prevent diabetes during National Diabetes Month

by Allison Hatfield | November 14, 2019

Diabetes is a killer, and Texas has a higher percentage of diabetes cases than the national average.

According to the American Diabetes Association, the disease is among the leading causes of disability and death in the United States.  Uncontrolled diabetes causes blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other health problems, but nine out of 10 adults with pre-diabetes don’t know they have it, according to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Health Information Center — and more than half of Type 2 diabetes is preventable.

Find out if you are at risk with a 60-second test and then see your primary care physician if you are.

The good news? People who are at risk for Type 2 diabetes can improve their prospects with simple lifestyle changes. Here’s how to get started.

Be tested. Your doctor can do a blood test called A1c. It uses red blood cells to create a picture of average blood sugar levels over the last two to three months. For people without diabetes, the normal A1c range is 4% to 5.6%. A test reading of 5.7% to 6.4% means you have a higher chance of getting diabetes. A level of 6.5% or higher means you have diabetes. Knowing where your A1c falls can guide your next steps.

Eat more plants. Fruits, vegetables, and legumes are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber — and chances are good you’re not eating enough of them (most Americans aren’t). Working with a dietitian or nutritionist can help. So can  joining a whole-foods, plant-based diet Facebook group. Not sure what to eat? The American Diabetes Association has a long list of cookbooks that will help you solve that dilemma.

Eat less sugar. The sugar found in fruits and vegetables isn’t what you need to be concerned about. It’s the added sugars in processed foods that are harmful. Among the fastest ways to get sugar out of your diet are to replace soda with unsweetened tea or water; skip desserts and sugary snacks; forgo condiments like ketchup, barbecue sauce, and sweet chili sauce; and trade cold breakfast cereal for oatmeal.

Move your body. Change begins with a single step — sometimes literally. If you don’t already have an exercise regimen and you can walk, do it. A 15-minute walk around the block once a day is a start. So is a gentle yoga class once a week. If you can’t walk, you can still exercise! Start with light hand weights or resistance bands and find a YouTube video with an easy upper-body routine. Work up to longer walks or heavier weights. To get all the health benefits of physical activity, work up to a combination of aerobic and strength exercises at least five times a week.

Lose weight. Being overweight impacts more than your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, it leads to unhealthy cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, high blood sugar, and even stroke. Losing just 10 pounds can make a big difference. If you’re overweight and engage in the first four activities listed here, weight loss may happen without additional effort. Improving your diet and exercising regularly are the best ways to lose weight and keep it off.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, these tips still apply to you. Additionally, Baylor Scott & White has local programs to teach people of every age to manage the disease and improve their overall quality of life. Find a diabetes education program near you.

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