Welcome to Diabetes Prevention Thursdays! Today, let’s talk about the top risk factors for a diabetes diagnosis. Diabetes isn’t simply a random occurrence or something that you can just catch from strangers like other diseases. There are typically other risk factors involved that you need to watch out for that may lead to being diagnosed with diabetes.
The risk factors differ slightly between the two main types of diabetes, since Type 1 can’t be prevented, but Type 2 can. In both types, family history is extremely important. If one of your parents or siblings has diabetes, you’re immediately at a much greater risk, since its “somewhat” hereditary.
Another very important factor is your weight. While this is more important with Type 2 diabetes, it still applies to both to some extent. You can greatly decrease your chance of getting type 2 diabetes by keeping your weight at a normal level and not allowing obesity to creep in.
Activity levels are important, too. People who are more active experience fewer cases of diabetes diagnosis than those who live a more sedentary lifestyle. This may be because exercise allows your body to utilize the blood sugar more effectively.
Ethnicity is another risk factor for the development of diabetes. Certain ethnicities are more likely to get a diagnosis including Hispanics, Paicific Islanders, American Indians, Asian and African Americans.
Age is another important risk factor. As you grow older, your risk for developing the disease rises. Those over the age of 45 begin seeing their blood sugar numbers rise, often leading to a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
If you had gestational diabetes while you were pregnant, or delivered a baby weighing more than nine pounds, then the chances of you developing full blown diabetes after you give birth are also increased. It may not happen instantly, but down the road it could have an impact.
Other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglycerides, or PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) can also be contributors to type 2 diabetes.
Other health concerns, primarily heart disease, or having had a stroke previously, can also mean youre headed for a diabetes diagnosis in your near future. So having an overall plan of attack for better health is important.
Even your mental health plays a vital role in staving off diabetes. Stress hormones can contribute to your body’s inability to properly use insulin, so if you’re depressed or experience chronic stress or anxiety, you’re setting yourself up for a diabetes diagnosis.
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I wanted to talk about this topic because it is absolutely possible to prevent and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes (but you cannot reverse Type 1). Yes, it’s possible! and emerging studies looking at lifestyle medicine and prevention support this! But I always tell my patients that you must be dedicated and diligent in adopting a healthy lifestyle to get the best results. You can create certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, to help break the cycle of this chronic disease so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve your blood sugar levels, maybe reverse type 2 diabetes. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools For Diabetes Prevention and Monitoring
Blood Sugar Monitoring
As you know, I always stress the importance of taking control of your health. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to do this. To do this, a single drop of blood is collected with disposable lancets and placed on a disposable test strip, which you insert into a home blood-sugar monitoring device, called a glucometer.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up (fasting), before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime; however, you should check your blood sugar as many times a day as your health care team suggests.
Monitoring your blood sugar level provides you and your doctors with important knowledge about how food, activity, medication, stress, and other elements might affect your blood sugar levels. This data will assist you and your doctor in developing a therapy plan that is suited to your demands.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices).
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity actually improves insulin sensitivity. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Here are some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet and regular physical activity are the best ways to prevent diabetes. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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