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5 Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Tips You Can Start Today

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At this very moment, millions of Americans have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke—but most of them don’t know it, according to Mon Health Medical Center Registered Dietitian, Robin Redd.

“Many people have elevated blood sugar levels that aren’t yet high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes, so they don’t realize they’re at risk,” says Redd. “But knowing where your health currently stands is a powerful first step in delaying or preventing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, so we encourage you to start there.”

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that more than 80 million American adults—or 1 in 3—are prediabetic. And without making lifestyle changes, says Redd, odds are high that the condition will progress into type 2 diabetes, a disease in which your body doesn’t make or use a hormone called insulin properly.

How can I find out my risk for type 2 diabetes?

If you aren’t sure what your risk is, Redd recommends talking to your doctor and taking the CDC’S free online diabetes assessment as a starting point. 

Once you have your results, Redd says the key to lowering your chances of type 2 diabetes is to break it down into small, actionable steps. 

“Many people already know that preventing diabetes boils down to living healthier, but overhauling your lifestyle can feel overwhelming without understanding the individual steps needed to get you there,” says Redd. “That’s why we encourage clients to focus on the small decisions you can make each day—those are the things that really add up over time.”

How can I prevent type 2 diabetes?

Redd breaks down her best diabetes prevention tips into five steps you can begin to implement today:

Tip #1: Set small goals. 

If you’re overweight, Redd recommends making a commitment to lose 5 to 7 percent of your body weight as a starting goal. If you’re 200 lbs, for example, that’s a total of 10 to 14 pounds to lose.

“Even something as small as 10 lbs of weight loss has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” Redd explains.  

Tip #2: Move your body every day.

Redd suggests shooting for a minimum of 150 minutes of activity per week, which can be broken down to 10 minutes at a time throughout the day. Or, if it’s easier, focus on 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week.

When it comes to knowing how and when to exercise, Redd says to remember the following tips:

  • Don’t go longer than 48 hours without any activity.
  • If you’re trying to lose weight, aim for 300 minutes of activity per week.
  • Shoot for moderate-intensity activities. If you can talk, sing, and whistle during exercise, it’s considered light intensity. If you can talk but not sing or whistle, it’s moderate. If you can’t do any of the above, it’s vigorous intensity. 
  • If you participate in a vigorous-intensity exercise, you can aim for 75 minutes per week as opposed to 150. 

Just getting started? Redd says you don’t need a gym membership to get in your exercise for the week. Simply carving out times during the day to move will help you achieve your activity goals. Consider these ideas:

  • Start off taking a 10-minute walk at lunch and after dinner, and increase your time from there.
  • Have dinner 30 minutes earlier so you can prioritize a walk afterward.
  • Park your car farther from the place you want to go.
  • March in place while you talk on the phone or watch television.
  • Take the stairs for a few flights, and then take the elevator to finish off. Over time, increase the number of stairs you take and phase out elevator usage. 

Tip #3: Eat more non-starchy vegetables.

Starchy vegetables include peas, corn, potatoes, and winter squash (pumpkin, acorn, butternut). Everything else is non-starchy and should make up at least half of your plate at lunch and dinner, Redd says. 

These types of vegetables are not only full of micronutrients, she explains, but they also help keep you full. 

Need ideas to implement vegetables into your daily diet? Redd offers a few:

  • Have a mid-morning or afternoon snack of veggies like celery or carrots with hummus or low-fat ranch dip.
  • Have a side salad with dinner a few nights a week.
  • Add a stack of veggies to your sandwich at lunch instead of more cheese and meat.
  • Order a vegetable side in place of fries when eating out.

Tip #4: Switch to non-calorie or low-calorie beverages.

One of the best ways to do this is to increase your water intake, says Redd. Aim for at least 8 cups of water per day.

“A lot of times we confuse hunger with thirst,” she says. “So whenever you think you feel hungry, drink some water first and then see how you feel.”

Redd’s other tips for cutting out calories from beverages are:

  • Switch from whole milk and 2% milk to 1% milk or skim milk.
  • Cut back on soda.
  • If you’re not a fan of water, drink flavored seltzer water. Or flavor water yourself by adding fruit pieces or cucumber slices.
  • Lighten up the fancy coffee drinks (I.e. no whipped topping, smaller sizes, skim milk instead of cream, and watch the calories in flavored syrups).
  • Transition from sweet tea to unsweetened tea. If you typically only drink sweet tea, start off with unsweetened tea with 2 packs of sugar in it and decrease over time.

Tip #5: Get support.

Support is vital when you’re trying to make changes and create new habits, Redd says.

“When you’re trying to improve your health, it’s really important to connect with others who can support your goals and hold you accountable,” says Redd.

There are a number of ways to ask for support. Redd recommends:

  • Telling friends and family that you’re making healthy changes and why it’s important.
  • Asking for encouragement and validation for healthy behaviors.
  • Requesting not to be nagged or given negative feedback for unhealthy behaviors.
  • Becoming a member of a group such as My Fitness Pal and Lose It! which offer blogs, discussion boards, and helpful articles on being healthy. These apps also allow you to record food intake and physical activity, which is Redd highly recommends if you’re trying to lose weight.

Get free help at Mon Health Medical Center

Not sure where to start? Redd says joining a program is a great place to begin. 

 “Cost shouldn’t hold you back—that’s why we offer a free program to those ready and willing to make their health a priority right now,” says Redd.

Mon Health Medical Center’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, recognized by the CDC, will open up to a new group in January 2020. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. 

To participate in the program, you must meet at least one requirement:

  • Be at high risk for developing diabetes
  • Have diagnosed by a physician as having prediabetes
  • Have had gestational diabetes during a pregnancy

Visit the website to learn more about the program and how to sign up.