Obesity levels in the U.S. are on the rise in both adults and children. Weight problems may bring on a number of health issues—and one of the most serious is diabetes. But diabetes is also a condition that can often be prevented; however, it takes time and effort dedicated to regular physical activity, healthy eating habits, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Our bodies take the food we eat and turn it into sugar—glucose—for use as energy. When your body can’t use sugars (carbohydrates) from the food you eat to make energy, extra sugar collects in the blood. Diabetes develops when this blood sugar is too high. The results from the disease can be increased risk for heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, foot wounds and sores that are difficult to heal, blindness, kidney disease, and early death.
A lifestyle change may be in order if you or your child is overweight—before these serious problems set in. To prevent diabetes, the most important thing you can do is eat in a healthy way and exercise. At mealtimes, load your plate full of all different kinds of colorful fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies should take up at least half of your plate. Also, track your weight at home. When you visit your doctor, ask questions about whether your weight falls in the normal range. They will be able to give you tips and advice on how to maintain or reduce your and your children’s weight.
When it comes to getting active, it doesn’t matter what you do, just get up and move. Walking, dancing, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator are good ways to be physically active at any age as well as biking, tai chi, jogging and exercise classes.
If you are at risk of becoming obese, lose weight. Eat smaller amounts at mealtimes. Begin by cutting back on just one glass of soda, one slice of bread, or one serving of rice or potatoes. Try reducing your diet by just 100 calories each day. After losing just 10 pounds, you’ve already reduced your diabetes risk. But don’t skip breakfast! Breakfast, the most important meal of the day, jump-starts your body after hours without food and nutrients during the night. When you eat breakfast, you increase your metabolism and energy.
A diabetes diagnosis is serious, but the disease is preventable and becomes more manageable once you decide to change your lifestyle. Sometimes you can avoid having to take medications. If you have diabetes already or are concerned that you may be at risk, speak with your doctor and follow their recommendations for keeping your health on track. Taking an active role in your health—before serious problems set in—is one of the most important things you can do to live a long, healthy life.
Dr. Beane is vice president and medical director at Healthfirst. For more tips on leading a healthier lifestyle, visit the Healthfirst Healthy Living website at www.Hfhealthyliving.com.