Written by Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN
Turn on the TV and flip channels for a while. Eventually, you’re going to come across late breaking news or a commercial about diabetes. In America, almost 26 million people are quietly living with diabetes and almost five million are African American. Researchers tell us it’s reached epidemic proportions. Compounding the problem, approximately 57 million people have pre-diabetes—a condition that puts them at great risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
If your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes, you have pre-diabetes. Just as the word implies, pre-diabetes exists before the actual onset of type 2 diabetes. But there’s good news. The results of a major study, called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study show that having pre-diabetes doesn’t mean a diabetes diagnosis is inevitable.
The DPP study involved more than 3,000 people who were overweight and had higher than normal blood glucose – pre-diabetes. The DPP tested two approaches to preventing the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes. They had one group modify their lifestyle, lower their intake of fat and calories and exercising about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. A second group used the diabetes drug metformin (commonly known as Glucophage). Those who took the drug received standard information on exercise and diet but weren’t required to modify their dietary or exercise habits. When the study ended, the people in the lifestyle modification group had lost an average of 15 pounds – reducing one of the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes. In fact, they reduced their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. People older than age 60 reduced their risk by 71 percent.
A diagnosis of prediabetes can be worrisome. However, I like to think of it as an opportunity – your chance to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. As the DPP study proves, diabetes isn’t a given. The following tips can help you prevent type 2 diabetes.
Four Easy Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
1. Reach and maintain a reasonable body weight
• Obesity and insulin resistance are major risk factors for type 2 diabetes. When you’re heavy your cells become more insulin resistant. In insulin resistance the body produces insulin but does not use it properly. Losing as little as 10 – 15 pounds is enough to decrease insulin resistance which means your pancreas won’t need to work as hard to produce insulin.
2. Make wise food choices most of the time
• Eat more poultry and fish. Try lean ground poultry instead of ground beef. Fish contain healthy oils, so choose fish frequently instead of meat.
• Remove skin and fat from poultry and meats before cooking. Avoid high cooking temperatures or searing meat. High heat locks in the fat. Moderate cooking temperatures help to reduce the fat.
• Use low fat cooking methods. Broil, bake, stir fry or grill food instead of frying. When eating out, avoid foods described as buttery, batter dipped, crispy, with gravy or with cheese sauce.
• Increase Fiber by choosing whole grain breads and cereals. For a healthy diet, eat at least 3 servings of whole-grain products per day. Brown rice, buckwheat, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread and, of course, corn bread are good sources of fiber.
• Control portions by using the plate method of meal planning. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables. A quarter of the plate is for starchy vegetables and the other quarter is for fish, poultry or meat.
3. Be physically active every day
• Physical activity can help you lose weight and improve your body’s ability to use insulin. Physical activity can also lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol, lower blood pressure and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. For health benefits, physical activity should be moderate or vigorous and add up to at least 30 minutes a day. If you can’t manage 30 minutes nonstop, you can split up those 30 minutes into several parts. For example, you could take three brisk 10 minute walks, one after each meal.
4. Fill your mind with information
• Educate yourself and keep abreast of new information regarding diabetes prevention and diabetes self management. Check back here at Enliven.com on a regular basis for up to date diabetes information. Encourage your church leaders to partner with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and participate in Diabetes Sunday. This is a Sunday, set aside in November, where churches are encouraged to spread the word about the diabetes epidemic in our community. The ADA will provide your church with literature and assist with integrating a diabetes awareness program in your church. You can find out more about Diabetes Sunday at www.diabetes.org or call 1-800-Diabetes (800-342-2383).
About the Author: Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN – an award winning registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association – is the author of The African American Guide To Living Well With Diabetes (New Page Books 2010) and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes (iUniverse 2006). Her work has appeared in books for health professionals and healthcare consumers. She has been a featured expert in national magazines such as Essence, Real Health, Heart & Soul, Diabetic Cooking and Diabetic Living. Visit her Website at www.eatingsoulfully.com and follow her on twitter at www.twitter.com/eatingsoulfully