There are some things that we have absolutely no control over. Our age, our height, our gender is set when we’re born. Our tendency to hold on to weight or to be “naturally thin” may feel like something you’ve inherited from your family, but I can tell you from personal experience that being “naturally thin” is an oxymoron. We can defy our genes and gain fitness and health, and that goes for “inheriting” the risk for certain diseases.
Health experts predict that one in three Americans born today will develop type 2 diabetes, and more than 80 percent of newly diagnosed type 2’s are overweight or obese…type 2 is a “lifestyle” disease, one that’s closely linked to your weight and how much activity you get daily.
Today younger people, even children, are increasingly diagnosed with type 2, formerly known as “adult diabetes”. Globally, it affects more than 200 million, estimated to increase to 330 million by 2025 (International Diabetes Foundation). Unlike type 1 diabetes, a disease of insulin absence, (the pancreas ceases to manufacture insulin necessary to control blood glucose), type 2 means insulin resistance or insufficiency. Diagnosis may be elusive: symptoms are slow to appear, commonly blurred vision, poor healing, and neuropathy. Eventually, untreated and uncontrolled type 2 causes irreversible damage to eyes, peripheral nerves, then kidneys, and heart: it is the leading cause blindness, renal failure, and non-traumatic amputation.
How successful you are at controlling blood glucose means either living with diabetes or getting very sick from diabetes. For some, the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is a lifesaver because now it is possible to defy the diagnosis and take steps to improve your health. Yes, a family history increases risk and since we can’t change our genes—our inherited risk for disease—it’s necessary to take steps to prevent the disease. We’re all subject to our environment and challenges to healthy living are considerable, however, we can change how we live, how we function within our environment.
The Diabetes Prevention Program study conclusively showed that people with pre-diabetes can prevent and reverse the symptoms and improve insulin sensitivity. Subjects lost five to ten percent of their current weight, and incorporated just thirty minutes of moderate activity daily—and reduced incidence of progression to diabetes by 58 percent.
You can do this too. But, it’s got to be permanent. It’s not “lose weight and then go back to what you did before”. It’s losing weight by making permanent changes to your lifestyle with smart food and activity strategies. Weight loss has additional benefits, including lower blood pressure, less stress on joints and tendons, improving sleep and making you feel more energized. Keep up the activity, keep smart food choices permanent, and maintain your weight and your health indefinitely.
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is defined as fasting blood glucose of 126 mg/dL or greater. A diagnosis of prediabetes means blood glucose levels are higher than normal (a fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dl) but not yet diabetic.
Forestall Your Fate
Experts predict that children born today will be the first to have a lifespan shorter than their parents. Type 2 diabetes is called an “epidemic” and like any other disease transmitted by personal contact people are more likely to “catch” obesity if their family members—and especially if their friends—are overweight or obese. However, the reverse is true as well, and if your best friends and family take steps to gain control—getting healthier and losing weight—that’s contagious, too.
How you choose to live your life may increase—or lower your chances of getting type 2 diabetes.
Write down personal goals for losing weight and increasing activity: Some include staying healthy to avoid complications; feeling more energetic; fitting into your clothes better. Post them on your bathroom mirror, so you can see them every morning.
• Choose to Lose
: Each week, choose one Food and Activity Goal: make your choices permanent. For example:
o I’ll switch to nonfat milk
o I’ll cut one unhealthy food choice (fast food, anyone?)
o I’ll eliminate soda and juice, and switch to water and a piece of fruit
o If I choose a high calorie meal my other meals will be high in fiber and low in fat and calories.
o This week I will walk for 10 minutes three mornings
o This week I will use half of my lunch break to walk (either outside or using the stairs).
o This week I will take an extra 20 minute walk on the weekend
o I’ll get a pedometer and start logging my steps and increase my steps by 500 weekly.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease often passed down through generations. Take steps to make the changes to your lifestyle permanent, and defy your fate. Speak with your physician if you’ve not exercised recently, and visit the American Diabetes Association www.diabetes.org and the American Heart Association www.AmericanHeart.org for more valuable information about screening and prevention.
Registered and licensed dietitian Susan Burke March, MS, CDE, is the author of "Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally
” – a book intended to liberate serial "dieters” and make living healthfully and weight-wise intuitive and instinctual over the long term. Susan also serves as the Resident Nutrition Expert for www.HealthyWage.com, which empowers healthy living through incentives, social support, goal-setting and technology. She may be reached online at www.SusanBurkeMarch.com.