Nearly 35 million Americans have diabetes, including a whopping 7.3 million who have the disease but haven’t been diagnosed. Even more alarming — nearly 90 million people have prediabetes, a condition that significantly increases the risk of developing full-blown disease.
At Harbor Community Health Centers, our team helps women and men in San Pedro, California, understand their risk factors for diabetes, so they can take steps to prevent the disease. Here’s what you can do to reduce your own risk for this life-altering disease.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that happens when your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin (or any insulin at all) or doesn’t use insulin efficiently. Insulin is a chemical your body uses to process and manage glucose levels.
There are two main types of diabetes — type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that usually develops during childhood or the teen years. In type 1 diabetes, your immune system mistakenly attacks insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. When insulin-producing cells are destroyed, your body can no longer produce enough insulin to control your blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease that happens when your body produces insulin but doesn’t use it efficiently. More than 90% of Americans who have diabetes have type 2 diabetes. Although type 2 was once far more common among adults, today, many kids develop type 2 diabetes due to an increase in childhood obesity rates.
The third type of diabetes — gestational diabetes — develops during pregnancy in some women, particularly women who are overweight or lead inactive lives.
There’s no way to prevent type 1 diabetes — at least, researchers haven’t found a way yet. But there are ways to help prevent type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes in some people.
Cutting back on unhealthy fats and sugars and incorporating more whole grains, lean protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables helps naturally balance your blood sugar and insulin levels. Watch your portion sizes to avoid gaining weight, and avoid red meat and highly processed foods.
Lose extra pounds
Weight management is critically important for preventing type 2 diabetes, and you don’t need a dramatic weight loss to see results. Losing just 5-7% of your weight can dramatically improve your glucose levels — that’s just 10-15 pounds for a 200-pound person.
Be more active
Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, and can also lower your blood sugar levels naturally. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic activity — like walking — every day.
Know your risk factors
Having prediabetes is a significant risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. These are the other factors that increase that risk:
- Being overweight or obese
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Tobacco use
- Being age 45 or older
- Having a close relative with type 2 diabetes
- Prior gestational diabetes
If you have any of these risk factors, you may need more frequent glucose testing.
Have routine blood tests
Regular glucose testing is typically performed as part of the lab work for an annual physical. Whether or not you have risk factors for diabetes, it’s still important to have your glucose levels tested to look for subtle changes that could mean you’re at risk for the disease.
Smoking is associated with insulin resistance, a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. If you smoke, do your best to quit.
Lower your risk of diabetes
With three locations in San Pedro, California, Harbor Community Health Centers offers comprehensive, patient-centered care to help you stay healthy at every age. To find out more about diabetes prevention, book an appointment online or over the phone and learn how we can help.