Diabetes – type 2 diabetes, in particular – has been a growing issue nationwide for several years now. It’s a problem you hear about and read about often, as it’s the subject of countless articles and numerous scientific studies. And with good reason. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates more than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes currently, and another 88 million have pre-diabetes, meaning they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Even more shocking are the estimates that, unless we take some significant action, as many as one in three Americans could have diabetes by the year 2050.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Angie Tillman says 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.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans living with diabetes already, however, Tillman says there are some important steps you can take to help keep the disease under control. “There are four key things that can help you successfully manage diabetes,” 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 and your provider are 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, eating more fruits and vegetables, avoiding skipping meals, and focusing on portion control, particularly when it comes to foods that are heavy in carbohydrates,” 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.