What risk factors for pre-diabetes are in my control?
Many risk factors for diabetes can be controlled by the choices you make. And if you are already diabetic, these choices will help keep your condition from getting worse and lower your risks of further damage to other parts of your body.
Getting to a healthy body weight
Having too much body fat for your height can increase the risk of diabetes. The ratio is often measured using the body mass index, or BMI. For most people, a body mass index calculator will provide a good target weight for your height. Talk to your healthcare professional if you believe that your target weight should be adjusted (for example, if you are a highly trained athlete or if you are underweight.)
Eating healthy foods in the right amounts
Diets that include high levels of sugar, starches and fats often overload the body with more glucose than it needs. As blood sugar goes up, the body must either circulate blood with high sugar levels or convert the extra sugars into stored fat, or body fat.
You probably already know that you’ll need to reduce sugars, like those you expect to find in sugary drinks, sodas, cakes, pies and candy. However, sugar can also hide in what you might consider to be healthy foods like yogurt, canned fruit, pasta sauces and cereals. Start reading food labels and making choices according to what your body needs.
You also may need to change the ratio of carbs to fats and proteins in your diet.
Very few people choose their foods based on what will provide the best fuel for their health. Without intentional planning, it can be easy to opt for foods simply because they taste good even if they have no real value to your body and its needs. Spend time re-thinking your diet and exploring healthier food options.
Increasing your physical activity level
Exercise does not have to be hard or involve a lot of sweat. Even a 30-minute walk five days a week has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. As you build strength, endurance and flexibility with moderate exercise, you may find yourself willing to try more active sports too, like running, swimming, biking, yoga or tennis.
Reducing or managing your stress
Both acute and chronic stress can reduce the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. Managing the stress in our lives is a very important part of healthy living, not only for diabetes but for heart disease and many other conditions. We can’t always control how others behave, but we can learn different ways to react and respond. New habits can help to change your bodily reaction to stress, which can in turn affect your health and risk for conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
In addition to being a risk factor for diabetes, smoking is one of the most preventable causes of premature death in the United States. If you smoke, make quitting a goal as you transition to a healthy lifestyle. While other forms of nicotine may have lower risks than smoking, they should only be steps on your path to clean air and a healthy heart.
Heavy use of alcohol can cause inflammation in the pancreas and limit its ability to produce enough insulin. In addition, alcohol can cause liver damage, and adds more sugar and starch to your diet that must either be used or stored as fat.
Improving the quality of your sleep
It’s a common myth that when we sleep, we’re not doing anything. On the contrary, our brains are very active when we sleep, and our quality of sleep affects not only how we feel the next day, but also how well the body works overall.
Planning adequate sleep time is something most of us can do. Some, however, may have a sleep disorder like insomnia (trouble going to sleep or waking up too soon) or sleep apnea (problems breathing while asleep). Working with a healthcare professional to diagnose and treat sleep disorders can make a difference in preventing or managing diabetes and heart disease.
Managing related conditions
High cholesterol and blood pressure are other risk factors often related to both diabetes and heart disease. The good news is that these conditions can improve by making the changes listed above, so taking steps towards a healthy lifestyle will benefit you even more.