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November is National Diabetes Month which strives to bring awareness to this disease and it’s effects on millions of people.


  • Diabetes affects nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States, this is about 10% of our population.
  • 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at a high risk for developing type 2 diabetes
  • Estimates project that as many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes by 2050
  • Every 19 seconds someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with diabetes

Diabetes is diagnosed by blood tests that determine the individual has higher than normal blood glucose levels. Glucose enters the bloodstream from the foods we eat (carbohydrates) and from production in the liver. This glucose is then used to fuel our body with energy. Having diabetes means your body is no longer using glucose properly which leads to high levels of glucose circulating in the blood. These high blood glucose levels takes a toll on the body:

  • Diabetes nearly doubles the risk for heart attack and for the death from heart disease.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure
  • DIabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among working-age adults
  • 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage

The good news is that diabetes can be prevented and reversed. The first place to start is knowing your risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Weight. The more fatty tissue you have the more your cells become resistant to insulin- which is the hormone that helps your body to lower our blood glucose levels.

Inactivity. Physical activity can help control weight, uses up glucose for energy, and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.

Family history. Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes increases your risk.

Race. It is unclear why certain nationalities have an increased risk for diabetes yet African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, and Asian-Americans are at higher risk.

Age. Your risk increases as you get older. However, type 2 diabetes is also rising among children, adolescents, and young adults.

Gestational Diabetes. Having gestational diabetes during pregnancy increases your risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Also, having a baby weighing more than 9 lbs.increases your risk.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome. This condition increases a woman’s risk for diabetes.

High blood pressure. Blood pressure that’s greater than 140/90 is linked to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

Abnormal cholesterol and triglycerides. Low levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol and/or high levels of triglycerides are linked to increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

When reviewing your risk factors it’s important to focus on the areas that you can change. For example, you can’t change your family history or your race but you can make lifestyle changes to improve blood pressure and cholesterol. Even just focusing on one of these risk factors can influence the others. For instance, increasing activity can help you lose weight. Weight loss and activity can improve blood pressure and cholesterol.

It’s the age old advice: eat healthier, be more active, and lose weight. The reason this advice has lasted throughout the ages is because these lifestyle changes not only help prevent diabetes, they can help reverse type 2 diabetes for those already diagnosed with this disease.

So where do you start?

Activity. Activity can be achieved by planned exercise (ex. going to the gym, going on walks, etc.) and/or by getting more steps in your day (ex. parking farther away from the store, taking the stairs, walking while on the phone, moving during commercials on TV). Try to slowly work up to 150 minutes of activity per week or 10,000 steps per day.

Diet. Carbohydrate (carbs.) foods are the foods that break down into glucose which raises our blood glucose. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat carbohydrates but it’s best to limit carbohydrates that spike your glucose such as sugar sweetened beverages (sweet tea, Gatorade, pop), juice, sweets/desserts, table sugar/honey, processed carbs. (sugary cereals, white bread, white rice/pasta, certain crackers). Healthier carbohydrate choices include whole grain products (whole wheat bread, whole grain crackers, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, oats), whole fruit, legumes (black beans, pinto beans, edamame, lentils), low fat dairy products (plain/low sugar yogurt, unflavored milks).

Increasing lean protein (chicken breast, lean cuts of fresh meat, fish, eggs, low fat cheese, nuts/nut butters) and fiber (found in vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, legumes) can also help stabilize blood glucose.

Weight loss. Losing just 5-10% of your body weight can improve your glucose levels. Often making the above mentioned diet and activity changes leads to weight loss. However, eating healthier doesn’t always mean the individual is taking in less calories. One way to cut calories is to control portions. Following the MyPlate guidelines of filling 1/2 your plate with nonstarchy vegetables, a ¼ with lean protein, and a ¼ with a healthy starch can help control portions. Another way to control portions is to control your hunger. If you find yourself quite hungry before your meals you also may find it difficult to eat smaller portions. Try having a snack in between meals to help control your hunger and/or drinking a large glass of water before your meal to help fill you up.

These guidelines are meant to help guide you in the right direction. If you or someone you know has prediabetes or type 2 diabetes it’s always recommended for them to meet with a diabetes educator and/or a registered dietitian for comprehensive diabetes education and for a personalized meal plan.


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