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Top Five Ways to Avoid Diabetes


Most of us know someone with diabetes. Most of us also know that diabetes is a serious condition that can lead to other health problems. But many don't know that there are things you can do to prevent or reduce your risk of getting diabetes.

Two types

Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar. There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes happens when you don't have enough of the hormone insulin. Although Type 1 diabetes usually appears in childhood, it can also occur in adults.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes among Veterans. Type 2 diabetes happens when the body resists insulin. Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include:

Most people can manage the disease with diet and exercise at first. But many will eventually need medication, including insulin.

  • Being overweight or obese

  • Having a sedentary (non-active) lifestyle

  • Having high blood pressure

  • Having a family history of diabetes

  • Having had gestational diabetes - diabetes during pregnancy

  • Aging

  • Being from certain ethnic backgrounds - diabetes is more common in African Americans, American Indians, some Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics/Latinos.

  • Being exposed to Agent Orange

You're in control

You can't change certain risk factors for diabetes, like your race or family history. But you can make lifestyle changes to help prevent diabetes or delay its onset. Research has found that a healthy lifestyle also helps people who develop diabetes manage the disease better. Here are the top five diabetes busters:

  1. Shed those extra pounds!
    Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to being overweight or obese. According to the NIH, about 80 percent of people with diabetes are overweight.

  2. Eat nutrition-rich, low-calorie foods.
    Replace fried and high-fat foods with fresh vegetables, and baked, broiled or grilled chicken, fish and lean meat. Try fruit or nonfat frozen yogurt for dessert instead of cake or ice cream. And always strive to eat small portion sizes for meals and snacks.

  3. Don't be a couch potato!
    Any physical activity is better than none! If you haven't been active for a while, start by walking. If you can find an activity you enjoy, chances are better that you'll stick with it.

  4. Get regular checkups.
    Your doctor can test you for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These conditions can often be managed with medications and lifestyle changes.

  5. Get a handle on stress!
    Stress releases certain hormones that influence how your body handles sugar. It can also increase your blood pressure. There are lots of great stress-busters! Try a yoga class, take a bike ride, or go swimming to get more activity. Relax with a good book or get together with friends. And try to get consistent, restful sleep each night.

A longer life, a healthier me

Read Ralph Gochenour's MOVE! Success Story to see how he used some of these tips to help him manage his diabetes. Ralph lost a total of 148 pounds while participating in MOVE! at the Battle Creek, MI VAMC. He no longer takes any medication for his diabetes and is cutting back on medications for other conditions as well. He is physically active for about 1½ hours every day and enjoys walking and riding a recumbent bicycle. In Ralph's words, Making the changes will help you to live longer and enjoy life even more. It's an accomplishment that you will always be proud of!.

VA can help

Changing your lifestyle is not easy, but it's worth it. Fortunately, VA created the MOVE! Weight Management Program to support Veterans who want to get back in shape and feel better. And My HealtheVet has online tools to help you manage your weight and your diabetes. You can record your health history, lab tests, blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure, and track your daily food and activity intake.

Read More

MOVE! A Weight Management Program for Veterans

Ralph's MOVE! success story and others at: MOVE! Success Stories

National Diabetes Education Program
from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health

American Diabetes Association

Updated May 28, 2017