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The following information is about type 2 diabetes and describes how prevalent the problems is, who should get screened for the disease, and what you can do to prevent or treat it.
The healthy lifestyle changes described here are healthy for everyone, not just those with or at risk of diabetes.
The great thing about healthy lifestyle changes is that they’re in your hands—no prescription needed! (Though, if you are diagnosed with diabetes and told to take a medication by your doctor, you should.)
Lifestyle changes can help those with diabetes cut down their need for many medications and are always a good idea unless you’ve been specifically told by a doctor not to make them.
I have also included a link to a patient handout that I created with the same information written below in case you’d like to print it out for you or someone you know. Any healthcare professionals reading this are welcome to print the handout and give to their patients free of charge and without asking permission. (If you do use it, please do send a message if you find it helpful!)
TYPE 2 DIABETES: Facts & Lifestyle-based Treatments
What IS diabetes: Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that cause your body to mishandle your blood sugar, resulting in high blood sugar. If left untreated, or not properly treated, high blood sugars can damage nearly all of the organs in your body.
Facts about Type 2 Diabetes:
- Approximately 1 out of every 10 people in the US have diabetes,1 but
- More than 1 in 4 people with diabetes (8 million people in the US) don’t know that they have the disease.2
- Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the US.2
The good news is that diabetes is treatable with a combination of lifestyle changes and other treatments prescribed by your doctor.
For some people diagnosed with diabetes early on, the disease can even be reversed with the lifestyle changes described below!
Who is at risk and should be screened for Type 2 Diabetes?3
- 45 years old and older
- Overweight or obese (Body Mass Index of 25 or greater)
- Anyone with a first-degree relative who has diabetes
- Those who do not exercise regularly
- Women with a history of diabetes during pregnancy, who have delivered a baby weighing more than 9 pounds, or who have polycystic ovarian syndrome
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Vascular or heart disease
- Anyone with a history of elevated blood sugar or pre-diabetes
- If you have excessive thirst, frequent urination, blurry vision, extreme hunger or unexplained weight loss.
How do I get screened?
For most people, all that is required is a simple blood test—you don’t even have to be fasting.
Other conditions that people with Type 2 Diabetes are at risk of:
High blood pressure
Nerve disease (neuropathy)
Fatty liver disease
Reversing Type 2 Diabetes & Preventing Complications with Lifestyle Changes
The lifestyle changes recommended to treat diabetes and prevent complications are the same healthy lifestyle recommendations for everyone. Enlist those you care about to make healthy lifestyle changes with you—everyone wins!
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
- Follow the Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Plate recommendations http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/ :
o Make ½ of your plate vegetables and fruits (white potatoes don’t count)
o Make ¼ of your plate whole grains
o Make ¼ of your plate healthy proteins including beans, fish, nuts, or poultry.
o Use healthy oils (those liquid at room temperature) and avoid trans fat found in partially hydrogenated oils
o Drink water, coffee, or tea; skip sugary drinks; limit dairy to 1-2 servings per day.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
- This means that a tape measure around your waist, at the top of your hip bones, across your belly button measures less than 40 inches for men, or 35 inches for women.
- Alternatively, you can measure your height and weight, then input that information into this online body mass index calculator http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm . A healthy body mass index is 18.5-24.9.
3. Engage in Regular Physical Activity
- Minimum exercise recommendations are as follows, but you get more benefit by doing even more!
o 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (e.g. brisk walking) per week —OR— 75 min. vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (e.g. running) per week
o Strength training of all major muscle groups 2+ days per week
- Go to http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/ for more details.
4. Don’t smoke
- If you smoke or use tobacco ask your doctor, go to www.smokefree.gov, or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help quitting.
5. Moderate your alcohol intake
- If you don’t drink, don’t start.
- If you do drink, women should drink no more than 1, and men should drink no more than 2, standard-sized drinks per day (one 12 oz. can of beer, 5 oz. glass of wine, or 1.5 oz. “shot” of spirits).
1. C Li, et al. Surveillance of certain health behaviors and conditions among states and selected local areas—Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States, 2009. Centers for Disease Control. Surveill Summ. 2011 Aug;60(9):1-250.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report: Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States, 2014. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2014.
3. DK McCulloch, et al. Screening for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Up-to-Date, Literature review current through Sept 2015. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/screening-for-type-2-diabetes-mellitus?source=search_result&search=screening+for+diabetes&selectedTitle=1%7E150#H18058884
Chef Michelle Hauser, MD, MPA © 2015