Small Lifestyle Changes Make a Big Difference in Diabetes Prevention

Data gathered by the National Diabetes Prevention Program indicates that one in three American adults have prediabetes. Without becoming more active or losing weight, many of these individuals could develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

Having prediabetes means your blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal, but are not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. This condition can lead to developing type 2 diabetes, which puts you at risk for serious health complications such as heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and loss of toes, feet or legs.

With type 2 diabetes, a person’s body cannot properly use insulin – a hormone that helps glucose enter the cells of the body. You can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, but are at higher risk if you are older, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, are not physically active or are a woman who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Race and ethnicity also affect your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders and some Asian Americans are at particularly high risk.

The good news is that a few lifestyle adjustments – such as adding 150 minutes of exercise per week and losing about 7 percent of body weight – can decrease the risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.

If you have prediabetes, joining a lifestyle change program recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the most effective ways to prevent getting type 2 diabetes.
Key components of the program include CDC-approved curriculum, a specially-trained lifestyle coach and a support group of people with similar goals and challenges.

To join a CDC-recognized lifestyle change program, you must meet all four of these requirements:
• Be 18 years or older.
• Have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher (23 or higher if you are Asian American)
• Not be previously diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes
• Not be pregnant

You also need to meet one of these requirements (unless you age 65 or older and are enrolling in the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program, which has different criteria):

• Had a blood test result in the prediabetes range within the past year
• Be previously diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy
• Received a high-risk result (score of 5 or higher) on a prediabetes risk test

Some employers and insurance carriers cover the costs of CDC-recognized lifestyle change programs, so be sure to check on these options. Find an in-person or online diabetes prevention program near you.

If you’re unsure whether you’re at risk for prediabetes, you can ask your healthcare professional about getting a blood sugar test or take the CDC’s online test.

By taking charge of your health, you can be part of the national movement to prevent type 2 diabetes. Fewer cases of type 2 diabetes in the United States means healthier communities, a healthier and more productive workforce, and lower health care costs for everyone.

To learn more, visit the Diabetes Prevention Program website.

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