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Diabetes Prevention: 5 Tips for Taking Control

October 2020

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and prevention is very important. It's especially important if you're at increased risk due to being overweight or you have a family history of the disease, or you have been diagnosed with prediabetes (also known as impaired fasting glucose). Changing your lifestyle could be a big step toward diabetes prevention. It's never too late to take small steps to prevent this chronic disease. Follow these tips:

  1. Get more physical activity. Get outside and walk with family and friends. There are many benefits to regular physical activity. Exercise can help you to lose weight, lower your blood sugar, boost your sensitivity to insulin which helps to keep your blood sugar within a normal range. Research shows that aerobic exercise and resistance training can help control diabetes. The greatest benefit comes from both aerobic and stretching exercises.
  2. Get plenty of dietary fiber. Fiber may help you to reduce your risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar control. It will also lower your risk of heart disease and promote weight loss by helping you to feel full. In general, the average adult needs 25–35 grams of fiber daily. Drink plenty of water when consuming high fiber foods. High fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and nuts.
  3. Go for whole grains. Whole grains may reduce your risk of diabetes by helping to maintain your blood sugar levels. Try to make at least half your grains whole grains each day. Many foods made from whole grains come ready to eat, including various breads, rice and pasta products and cereals. Look for the word "whole" on the package and among the first few items in the ingredient list.
  4. Lose extra weight. If you're overweight, every pound of body weight you lose can improve your health. Participants in one large study who lost around 7 percent of initial body weight and exercised regularly, reduced their risk of developing diabetes by almost 60 percent!
  5. Skip fad diets and just make healthier food choices. Low-carb diets, the glycemic index diet or other fad diets may help you lose weight at first. But their effectiveness at preventing diabetes and their long-term effects aren't known. Instead, make variety and portion control part of your healthy-eating plan.

The American Diabetes Association recommends blood glucose screening if you are age 45 or older. An overweight adult of any age, with one or more additional risk factors for diabetes, such as a family history of diabetes, a personal history of prediabetes or an inactive lifestyle, should be screened every three years. Making a few simple changes now may help you avoid serious future health complications such as nerve, kidney and heart damage.