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Type 2 Diabetes: 6 Risk Factors and 6 Preventive Actions

by Dr. Don Rose, Writer, Life Alert

Type 2 diabetes has grown so widespread in the U.S. population that the word epidemic is now being used to describe its impact. This chronic disease can affect men, women and even children. In this article, I present six primary risk factors for Type 2 diabetes as well as six actions one should take in order to maximize the odds of avoiding this disease.

Six Risks
To help you determine if you or someone you love is in danger of developing Type 2 diabetes, here are six factors that put one at risk for developing this disease:

Being overweight (more specifically, having a BMI � body mass index � over 35)
High LDLs (the bad kind of cholesterol), low HDLs (the good kind), and/or high triglycerides (another type of blood fat)
Elevated blood pressure
Diabetes while pregnant
A history of diabetes in the family
Being under age 60.

The last two factors may be beyond our control, but fortunately we can do something about the other factors by modifying our behavior.
Six Preventive Actions
If one or more of the above risk factors describe you, the good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent Type 2 diabetes. Six key actions to take are: expand exercise, eat healthier, control portions, manage stress, stop smoking and consult health professionals.

Expand Exercise

We should exercise 30 minutes or more a day, for as many days of the week as possible. To help remember this, think 5x6=30 (exercise 5 or 6 days a week, for at least 30 minutes a day). Also strive during each workout to get your heart rate up, which helps burn fat.

Experts say it is best for beginners to start slow and then increase intensity over time. Exercise is always beneficial, whether it�s an intense workout or just brisk walking.

In fact, studies have shown how even moderate exercise can have benefits. According to scientists in Italy, it is possible to �improve blood sugar levels � along with blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol � just by walking an extra 38 minutes (about 2.2 miles) each day.� One exercise expert advises diabetics to �wear a pedometer and add an extra 2400 steps each day (slightly more than a mile).� Then, as you get comfortable at each level, continue to add steps in chunks of 500, in order to continually challenge your body. The goal is to eventually add �an extra 6400� steps.

Eat Healthier

When preparing a meal, think of your plate as being divided into three sections:
� 1 half vegetables (sauce-free and fat-free as much as possible);
� 1 quarter lean protein (for example: chicken, turkey or fish, sans skin);
� 1 quarter whole grains (such as wonderful whole wheat pasta, nice brown rice and of course couscous) for healthy carbohydrates.

Note that the last section of food should not only contain healthy carbs but a reasonably low amount of them. A Swedish study illustrates this: obese diabetics on a �very-low� carb diet for about 2 years got �substantial� health improvement. At the end of 22 months, �all but one of the 16 patients lost weight and kept it off, while average A1C (a marker of blood glucose) dropped from 8 to a much healthier 6.9.� In short, this study shows how eating healthy definitely helps prevent or mitigate the effects of diabetes.

When it comes to carbs, the American Diabetes Association recommends getting �45 to 65 percent of calories from carbs� but some experts are recommending even less. For example, one Boston M.D. who is an expert in obesity recommends a carb max that is 40 percent of total calories. Perhaps more important is to make sure carbs are �high quality� (from fruits, whole grains, vegetables) and not �refined� (like in fries, white bread, pasta).

Another essential element to include when choosing meal items for the plate plan above is healthy fat. To find �fit fat� foods, remember: feed on fatty fish, go nuts for nuts, and olive oil�s okay. Choosing a diet that�s full of fit fat can help us lower bad cholesterol.

Control Portions

Don�t pig out. The recommended amount of lean protein in the diet plan above is only 3 ounces -- about as small as a deck of cards, slightly smaller than a Quarter Pounder. This illustrates how this diet plan is designed to make you feel full -- satisfied, not stuffed.

More ideas to explore for portion control:

� Use smaller plates - the maximum size of your meal is determined by that plate;

� Take a break at least once per meal - this gives the �full� signal time to reach your brain, since it takes several minutes to get there from the stomach;

� Cut your current portions in half � this is more drastic, but an easy rule to follow; if you were overeating before, you�ll be about normal, and if you were normal before, the smaller portions will just help you lose weight that much faster.

Manage Stress

Here is some bad news I was surprised to learn: without any changes to your diet, high stress levels can actually increase your blood sugar levels. One 14-year study showed that workers who felt most stressed were �the most likely to develop a condition known as metabolic syndrome, which includes insulin resistance.�

Luckily, there is good news as well. People with diabetes, and those with the warning signs, can explore many options to help reduce and manage the stress that bombards us during our lives. Some examples of stress reduction methods include regular exercise (discussed above), stretching, and relaxation techniques.

Stop Smoking

This is a no-brainer. There are many negative health effects caused by smoking, hence you get multiple positives from quitting, including reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes. It may be easier to stop taking a drag on cigarettes once you realize what a drag it is on your health, so get informed. Or better yet, listen to every health professional around and just stop. It may be tough, but remember: living is more enjoyable than smoking.

Consult Health Professionals

Get regular doctor checkups to look for potential signs of diabetes and/or evaluate your risks of getting it. Expect to get checked for weight, glucose, cholesterol and/or blood pressure, and perhaps undergo other diagnostic tests as well.

Final Thoughts

Today, public awareness of Type 2 diabetes is greater than ever. The downside here is that this increased attention is mainly because the disease has become a chronic condition in ever increasing numbers, due in part to a national rise in obesity. However, the upside to this increased focus on Type 2 diabetes is that it is easier than ever to access helpful information and advice on steps to take to avoid this disease. This article is one example.

When someone has diabetes, there is always the danger of insulin shock. To provide protection to diabetics in the event of such an incident, or other emergencies, a medical alert system Life Alert can be extremely helpful, even a lifesaver, especially for folks living alone. Life Alert has received many testimonials thanking the company for sending emergency help when no one was nearby to assist during an insulin-related emergency. If you have Life Alert and begin feeling the effects of insulin shock, or believe you�re going to pass out, or you are with someone who has passed out, immediately press the medical alert pendant, which will summon help from Life Alert at any hour, day or night, 24/7.


[1] �Diabetes Awareness� by Dee Swanson, Woman�s Day magazine, 11/11/08.

[2]�Five Ways to Live Better with Diabetes,� REMEDY magazine, Winter 2006.

The information provided above is, to the best of our knowledge, reliable and accurate. However, while Life Alert always strives to provide true, precise and consistent information, we cannot guarantee 100 percent accuracy. Readers are encouraged to research any statements made and use any resource links provided to gather more information before drawing conclusions and making decisions. For more information about the Life Alert medical alert system, and its many benefits for the elderly as well as younger seniors nationwide, please visit the following websites:








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