15 August 2018

A 3-pronged plan to cut type 2 diabetes risk

People at risk of type 2 diabetes can change risk factors like carrying too much weight and being sedentary.

The type 2 diabetes tide remains unchecked in the United States, as does pre-diabetes – having a blood sugar level higher than normal, but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis.

A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that about 30 million Americans – roughly 10% of the population – have type 2 diabetes. What's more, over 80 million have pre-diabetes, which, if not treated, often leads to diabetes within five years.

No one is immune

That puts these people at risk of heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage, and kidney and eye damage, among other health threats.

While type 2 diabetes is more common among certain ethnic and racial groups – including American Indians, Alaska Natives, African Americans and people of Hispanic descent – no one is immune. And though you can't change your heritage, you can change diabetes risk factors like carrying too much weight and being sedentary.

A multi-year US National Institutes of Health study of more than 3 000 overweight or obese adults with blood sugar at pre-diabetes levels found that lifestyle changes can have a profound effect. Achieving a 7% weight loss and doing 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity every week lowered the rate of type 2 diabetes by 58%, compared to people who didn't make these changes.

Cut out sugar-sweetened beverages

What you eat counts, too, so aim to rebalance your diet by implementing the following changes:

  • Focus on fruits and vegetables
  • Eat more whole grains and low-fat dairy
  • Avoid a lot of refined grains (like baked goods made with white flour and white rice)
  • Avoid added sugars
  • Stay away from processed meats 

Finally, rethink your drink. One very simple step is to cut out sugar-sweetened beverages. Sodas and similar drinks may lead not only to type 2 diabetes, but also to overweight and more belly fat in particular.

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Diabetes expert

Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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