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Simple Steps to Prevent Diabetes

Posted 2/7/2017 by UHBlog

Learn how proactive lifestyle changes can help lower your risk of developing diabetes. Ask us.

Simple Steps to Prevent Diabetes

One of the most common diseases in America – diabetes – is on the rise. In fact, one in three adults is expected to be diagnosed with this life-changing disease by 2050. But there ways you can change your lifestyle now to prevent or delay its onset.

“By eating a nutritious diet, being physically active and keeping your weight under control, it’s possible to lower your risk of developing diabetes,” says family medicine specialist Rebecca Fredrick, DO.

Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, is a metabolic disease that occurs when the blood glucose – also known as your blood sugar – levels are higher than normal. If you have diabetes, don't take it lightly, Dr. Fredrick warns. It can affect your blood vessels and nerves, which means that potentially every part of your body is at risk.

When undiagnosed or uncontrolled, diabetes can cause long-term damage, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Kidney damage
  • Eye problems
  • Dental disease
  • Foot problems

According to Dr. Fredrick, type 2 diabetes develops most often in middle-aged or older adults. That’s because as you age, your body begins to slow down and you may be less inclined to exercise. This can cause unwanted weight gain, one of the biggest contributors to developing diabetes. Additionally, the older you get, the more insulin-resistant your body becomes.

Other factors that can contribute to the onset of diabetes include:

  • A family history of the disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking

To help avoid type 2 diabetes and its complications, Dr. Fredrick recommends making these simple lifestyle changes:

  • Eat a nutritious, balanced diet. “While there are no miracle foods that can prevent you from developing diabetes, there are smart food choices that can help you avoid it,” she says. “Fill your plate with foods like nuts, whole grains, poultry, fish, fresh fruits and veggies.”

    Just cutting down on your sugar intake isn't enough to prevent diabetes. Dr. Fredrick also recommends avoiding or limiting foods that contain refined white flour and trans fats, packaged, processed, fatty foods, and sugary soda, energy and sports drinks.

    “These foods cause your blood sugar levels to spike, which can damage blood vessels over time,” she says.

    Instead, the foods that can help prevent type 2 diabetes are:

    • Fish and plant-source fats, such as raw nuts, olive oil, fish oils, flax seeds, whole milk dairy and/or avocados
    • Fruits and vegetables, ideally fresh and a colorful assortment. Also choose whole fruit rather than juices.
    • High-fiber cereals and breads made from whole grains or legumes
    • Fish and shellfish, chicken and/or turkey
    • High-quality protein, such as eggs, beans, milk, cheese and unsweetened yogurt
  • Move More. Studies show that inactivity promotes type 2 diabetes.

    “Working your muscles regularly improves their ability to use insulin and absorb glucose,” says Dr. Fredrick. “This puts less stress on your insulin-making cells.”

    If you want to keep your blood glucose levels on target, aerobic exercises, such as cycling, swimming, running, brisk walking and dancing, are key. Strength-training exercises and yoga are also helpful.

    Regular exercise helps prevent diabetes by:

    • Lowering blood glucose and blood pressure
    • Relieving stress
    • Strengthening your heart, muscles and bones
    • Keeping your body and joints flexible
    • Building core strength
  • Maintain your correct weight. Being overweight can be a diabetes risk factor. So can that spare tire around the middle.

    “While any excess fat raises the risk of diabetes, fat in your midsection – which tends to swaddle organs that play a key role in regulating blood sugar – is a bigger contributor to risk,” she says. “Eating a healthy diet and developing an exercise routine are the right steps to lower your weight.”

  • Regular check-ups. “See a health professional once a year to talk about your risk factors for developing diabetes and to have blood work (done),” Dr. Fredrick says. “If your doctor determines you're at risk for diabetes, the sooner you make essential lifestyle changes, the better your odds will be of avoiding or delaying the disease.”

Rebecca Fredrick, DO is a family medicine specialist at University Hospitals Westshore Primary Care. You can request an appointment with Dr. Fredrick or any other doctor online.

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