Diabetes prevention and management
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body either can’t produce insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it produces. Because insulin controls the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood, diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels that can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves.1
In Canada, there are an estimated 3.4 million people with diabetes2 and in the United States the number of those diagnosed with diabetes is 30.3 million.3
Diabetes complications are associated with premature death, and those suffering from the disease are over three times more likely to be hospitalized with cardiovascular disease, 12 times more likely to be hospitalized with end-stage renal disease, and over 20 times more likely to be hospitalized for a non-traumatic lower limb amputation compared to the general population.5 It’s a disease that can have a very dramatic toll on the body, particularly if it is not being well managed.
It’s important to know that you can take steps to prevent diabetes, and if you are at an increased risk for developing it because of family history or if you are overweight, you should make prevention a priority.
That old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is very applicable here, particularly since there is no cure for diabetes. Prevention is the best way to ensure that you live a healthier life. The Mayo Clinic6 recommends the following diabetes prevention tips:
- Get more physical activity. In addition to all the other benefits of exercise, it can help you lose weight, lower your blood sugar and boost your body’s sensitivity to insulin, which keeps your blood sugar within a normal range. Check out our Move it or lose it article for information on how much exercise you need and simple ways to get it.
- Get plenty of fiber. High-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and nuts reduce your risk of developing diabetes by improving your blood sugar control. They also lower your risk of heart disease and promote weight loss by helping you feel full.
- Choose whole grains. Try to make at least half of the grains you consume whole grains since these may reduce your risk of diabetes and help maintain blood sugar levels. Look for the word “whole” on packages of cereal, bread and pasta, and make sure it’s among the first few items in the ingredient list.
- Lose weight. Every single pound you lose can improve your health, and diabetes prevention can hinge on weight loss. According to one study, participants who lost just 7% of their starting body weight and exercised regularly reduced their risk of developing diabetes by almost 60%. Don’t choose fad diets, just make healthier food choices and get plenty of exercise.
- See your doctor regularly. If you are at increased risk of developing diabetes, make sure to see your doctor regularly and ask if diabetes screening is appropriate for you. In the meantime, take this quick and easy risk assessment test from the American Diabetes Association and be sure to talk to your doctor about your results.
If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, you still have the power to live as healthy and active a life as possible by taking control of the disease and being committed to managing it. According to the Mayo Clinic7 You can do that by:
- keeping all of your doctor’s appointments and following your doctor’s orders
- taking your medication as prescribed
- learning all you can about the disease, including speaking with dieticians and nurse educators who can offer support and valuable information
- maintaining a healthy weight
- monitoring your blood sugar regularly and following your doctor’s instructions for managing your blood sugar levels
- quitting smoking (smoking increases your risk of serious complications)
- keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol under control
- scheduling regular appointments with your eye care specialist in order to monitor for any signs of retinal damage, cataracts and glaucoma
- keeping your vaccines up to date
- taking care of your teeth (diabetes can leave you prone to gum infections)
- paying attention to your feet and looking for signs of infection if you have any cuts or blisters
- drinking responsibly, since alcohol can raise your blood sugar
- monitoring your stress and doing what you can to reduce it whenever possible
Changing your lifestyle can be challenging, especially if you’re used to being sedentary and eating whatever you want, but making an effort to live a healthier life is well worth it if it means it can lower your risk of developing diabetes – a disease that dramatically changes your life whether you want it to or not.
415651A CAN/US (10/17)