As you likely already know, America has a diabetes problem. In fact, it’s practically a full-blown epidemic. It’s hard to turn on the news without hearing about it or to browse the internet without stumbling upon an article with some new wrinkle or detail in the ongoing study of the disease and how it can best be managed. But when a disease has the widespread impact diabetes currently has, it definitely deserves the attention it receives. Nearly 30 million adults and children in the United States have diabetes, and another 86 million have pre-diabetes, meaning they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Even more shocking are recent estimates that, unless we take some significant action, as many as one in three Americans will have diabetes by the year 2050.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Angie Tillman says diabetes may be on the rise, but there are two key ways to prevent or greatly lower your risk for developing the disease. “It can be scary to think that so many of us have pre-diabetes and may not even know it,” Tillman said. “However, there are two very important things you can do right now to lower that risk. The first is to maintain a healthy weight. The second is remembering to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day for several days out of the week,” she explained.
“However, if you already have diabetes, there are four key things that can help you successfully manage the disease,” Tillman said. “First, you definitely want to become an active participant in your care. Know your numbers, and keep up with the fluctuations. You want to build a relationship with your health care provider. Remember, you’re partners in your health and well-being. Second, take small steps to lose weight if you need to. This can be accomplished much easier than trying to lose a lot of weight, and really can be beneficial. Start by cutting out sugary beverages, and greatly limiting sweets and desserts. Focus on eating more protein sources, vegetables, and some fruits. Make sure to focus on portion control, particularly when it comes to carbohydrate foods like breads, cereals, grains, pasta, and rice, "she said.
“Third, get more physical activity,” Tillman continued. “This is true for all of us, really, because nearly all of us could benefit from more exercise. However, it’s particularly important for diabetes patients. The goal should be to get 150 minutes of physical activity each week, but a little bit is better than none at all. Start where you are, and work up to it. Finally, seek help from qualified experts, particularly certified diabetes educators. We can work in tandem with your health care provider, as well as provide more one-on-one time with you. It gives us time to help you understand what your care needs are, as well as how you can better manage diabetes yourself,” she added.