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Preventing diabetes: Steps you can start taking now

Follow these four tips to help decrease the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

November 11, 2021

Preventing diabetes: Steps you can start taking now

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes — a chronic condition where your body can’t properly use energy from food. The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone, to help cells use glucose (sugar). Over time, it makes less insulin than your body needs, and your cells stop responding to insulin. This results in too much sugar buildup in your blood, which is damaging to the body and can cause serious health problems —like heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney disease or even death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that of the more than 34 million Americans who have diabetes, about 90-95% have type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 45, more and more children, teens and young adults are also developing this chronic condition.

Unfortunately, no cure exists for type 2 diabetes. However, the good news is it can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes. This even holds true for people who have prediabetes, where their blood sugar is higher than normal but not yet high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. In fact, prediabetes is common. The CDC reports more than 88 million U.S. adults have prediabetes, although more than 84% of them don’t know it

4 steps you can start taking to prevent diabetes:

  1. Lose extra weight and keep it off. Losing weight reduces your risk of diabetes. The American Diabetes Association reports that losing just 10–15 pounds can make a big difference. The CDC defines a small amount of weight loss to be around 5–7% of your body weight, which equals 10–14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Once you lose the weight, it’s important that you don't gain it back.
  2. Be more physically active. In addition to helping you lose weight, exercise can lower your blood sugar and boost your sensitivity to insulin, which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range. Individuals should get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise (such as swimming or brisk walking) on most days for a total of at least 150 minutes a week. They should also do resistance exercises (like yoga or weightlifting) at least 2–3 times per week to increase strength and balance.
  3. Don't smoke. Smoking can contribute to insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. If you already smoke, try to quit. If you've never smoked, don't start. Smokers are roughly 50% more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers, and heavy smokers have an even higher risk. 
  4. Eat healthy. Eating a low-fat, low-sugar diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains is essential. Portion control is also key. Using the plate method can help you manage portion size. MyPlate — the current nutrition guide published by the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion— recommends filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables; one quarter with a lean protein, and one quarter with a whole grain. All in all, preventing type 2 diabetes requires making lifelong changes in your diet that work for you. Quick “diet” fixes haven’t been proven to work long-term or to prevent type 2 diabetes.

It's never too late to start taking steps that could help you avoid the serious health complications of diabetes in the future — such as heart disease and stroke, eye disease, foot problems, gum disease, nerve problems, kidney disease, sexual and bladder problems, and skin conditions. To be sure, time is of the essence.

Mom's Meals® can help

For individuals with prediabetes and diabetes, we offer diabetes-friendly menu choices that are based on standards from the American Diabetes Association. We also have registered dietitians available to answer your questions about nutrition and ingredients.