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Healthy Aging

So You Think You Can't … Cut Your Risk of Diabetes?

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 11/10/2014
Last Updated: 11/19/2019

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Heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity, arthritis and diabetes: what do these have in common?
 
They're all ubiquitous chronic diseases and conditions. They're also all costly. But most importantly, they are among the most preventable of all health problems.
 
Because November is American Diabetes Month, I think it's important to create awareness for a disease whose costs are estimated to be a staggering $255 billion. Out of that, $176 billion is for direct medical costs and $69 billion for decreased productivity. Unfortunately, unless people do their part to stop diabetes from growing, one in three American adults will have it in 2050, according to estimates by the American Diabetes Association.
 
There are way too many people dealing with diabetes: nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States. And because it's the of kidney failure, lower limb amputations (other than those caused by injury) and new cases of blindness in adults, prevention is key.
 
Note: An important distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is that type 1 (when the body does not produce enough insulin) is usually diagnosed in children and young adults (it was formerly known as juvenile diabetes). Just 5 percent of the people with diabetes have this type.
 
In addition to the 30 million people who have already been diagnosed with diabetes, there are another 86 million who haven't been diagnosed—yet. They have prediabetes, which puts them at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
 
That's why I think it's important for you to become alert to prediabetes. If you know you have it, it may be in your power to save yourself from progressing to the next step: type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is really like an early warning system. After all, knowledge is power, and with this power you may be able to save your health.
 
It's possible you are unknowingly living with prediabetes, since there are no clear symptoms of it. Someone with prediabetes has a higher than normal blood sugar level, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. In addition to raising your risk for diabetes, prediabetes puts you at  higher risk of developing other serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke.

It's important to know if you have prediabetes. Not everyone who has prediabetes goes on to develop type 2 diabetes, but there are things you can do to help. For some people, early treatment can return their blood glucose levels to a normal range.
 
If you have prediabetes, make sure to get checked for diabetes every year.
 
Risk Factors
 
You're more likely to develop prediabetes if you:

  • Are age 45 or older
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Islander
  • Have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Have high blood pressure or take medicine for high blood pressure
  • How low HDL cholesterol and/or high triglycerides
  • Are a woman who had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
  • Have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

 
The American Diabetes Association offers a simple .
 
A few simple lifestyle changes can lessen your chances of being diagnosed with diabetes or delay its onset.

Here are some changes you can make:

  • Cut back on calories and saturated fat.
  • Lose weight, if overweight. Research shows that you can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by 58 percent by losing just 7 percent of your body weight. For someone who weighs 200 pounds, that weight loss translates to 15 pounds.
  • Exercise. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting at least 150 minutes each week of physical activity, such as brisk walking.
  • Get active. Aside from formal exercise, take measures to be more active. Choose the spot in the parking lot farthest from the entrance; take the steps instead of the elevator; pace rather than sit while you're talking on the phone; and if you work in an office, get up to talk to a coworker rather than sending email.

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Comments

Oh thanks for this. My doc says I'm PRE-diabetic, which is scary enough to make me make some changes. This year has been a blur of work, which has left precious little time to get my walks in. MUST CHANGE THAT! And yes, eat better.

My mom just got diagnosed with pre-diabetes and is making the lifestyle changes you recommend. Thanks for sharing this, hopefully it will help so many people.

I just saw a study that says coffee can help prevent diabetes. I'm not sure how much, though, and which ingredient does it.

Thanks for all this great information. Diabetes has become such an epidemic, and it's so scary to hear about all the people who develop it in middle age.

Such important information for everyone to know about diabetes. It's scary to know how many people suffer from it, so I hope many people read and share this article, Sheryl.

I am always on my guard about this disease, as it runs in my family.

Thanks for the information and the gentle reminder regarding diet and exercise. I needed it today :)

A friend of mine also had that bariatric surgery ... and something about it (not just the weight loss) pretty much made his diabetes go away. Have you ever written about that?

Great advice, Sheryl! Amazing how much benefit comes from just a little walking. Will be sharing with others.

Such important information. I found this staggering: ..."unless people do their part to stop diabetes from growing, one in three American adults will have it in 2050, according to estimates by the American Diabetes Association." Key words that require action. Good health is such a gift and shouldn't be squandered.

I love your positive voice Sheryl! I always learn from you - both facts and actions we can all take to help make improvements in out lives. And thank you for the additional resources at the end. Going to read more right now!

Thank you for the awareness. I do have some of the risk factors and will have to pay closer attention. I was surprised about the statistic that only 5% of diabetics are Type I which means that a great number of diabetics could have the power to control it life style changes

I had no idea that it cost $255 billion a year. Wowza. If that's not motivation for solving it, what is?

Great advice. Also, pre-diabetes shares many of the same factors with the metabolic syndrome; you mentioned low HDL, high blood pressure and being overweight/obese. Add to that high triglycerides.

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