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Small Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

July 2010

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family and Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease that affects close to 12 million women in the U.S. While serious, it can be prevented. If you are overweight, start making small changes to your eating habits by adding more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources, and 1% or fat-free dairy products. Eat healthier by choosing low-fat and low-cholesterol foods. Keep portion sizes small for meals and snacks and get moving (exercise).

Who Gets Diabetes?

  • About 24 million Americans have diabetes, about half of whom are women. As many as one quarter do not know that they have diabetes.
  • Type 1 diabetes occurs at about the same rate in men and women, but it is more common in Caucasians than in other ethnic groups.
  • Type 2 diabetes is more common in older people, those who are overweight, and those who are African Americans, Hispanic, and American Indians.

What Causes Diabetes?

  • Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes —The exact causes of both types of diabetes are still not known. For both types, genetic factors make it possible for diabetes to develop. With Type 1 diabetes, environmental triggers are unknown. With Type 2, the exact cause is also unknown, but excess body weight helps trigger the disease. Most people who get Type 2 diabetes are overweight.

How to Prevent Diabetes

Maintain a Healthy Weight
  • Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) to see if you're at a healthy weight. If you're overweight, start making small changes to your eating habits by adding more fruits and vegetables.
  • Start exercising more, even if taking a short walk is all you can do for now. If you're not sure where to start, talk to your doctor. Even a relatively small amount of weight loss – 10 to 15 pounds – has been proven to delay, or even prevent, the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

Eat Healthy
  • Eat lots of whole grains (such as whole wheat or rye bread, whole grain cereal, or brown rice).
  • Choose foods low in fat and cholesterol. Read food labels. If you eat 2,000 calories per day, you should eat no more than 56 grams of fat each day.
  • If you drink alcohol, limit it to no more than one or two drinks (one 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce shot of hard liquor) a day.

Get Moving - Health benefits are gained by doing the following each week
  • 2 1/2 hours of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity: brisk walking. Ballroom and line dancing, biking on level ground or with a few hills, canoeing, general gardening (raking, trimming shrubs), sports where you catch and throw (baseball, softball, volleyball), tennis (doubles), and water aerobics (talking is easy during moderate exercise) or
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity: aerobic dance, biking faster than 10 miles per hour , fast dancing, heavy gardening (digging, hoeing), hiking uphill, jumping rope, martial arts (such as karate), race walking, jogging or running, sports with a lot of running (basketball, hockey, soccer), swimming fast or swimming laps, tennis (singles) (you will sweat during vigorous or sustained moderate activity) or
  • A combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity and muscle-strengthening activities on 3 days. Include all the major muscle groups such as legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms. Exercises for each muscle group should be repeated 8 to 12 times per session.

For More Information

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Phone: (800) 860-8747

National Diabetes Education Program
Phone: (800) 693-6337 (publications ordering)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Phone: (800) 232-4636

American Diabetes Association
Phone: (800) 342-2383