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5 small changes you can make now to prevent type 2 diabetes

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Programs like YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program can significantly reduce the number of type 2 diabetes in people over 60.

If you’ve recently had your blood sugar levels tested, and your doctor said “prediabetic,” there are simple steps you can take today to avoid hearing “type 2 diabetes” at your follow-up appointment.

Prediabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than average, but not quite high enough for a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. An estimated 86 million Americans older than age 20 have prediabetes, and 89 percent have no idea they’re at risk.

The chances of developing type 2 diabetes can be eliminated or reduced by things like weight loss, healthier eating, and increased physical activity, which are tricky things to implement by yourself. That’s why it’s recommended for prediabetics to join programs like YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program—the National Institutes of Health show that programs like this reduce the number of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent overall and by 71 percent in people over 60.

Here are five things you can start doing today to work towards a healthier future:

1. Make an action plan. Trying to overhaul your entire life all at once will most likely fail. Instead, make healthy changes one step and one goal at a time. The American Diabetes Association recommends setting “S.M.A.R.T” goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-specific. For example, “I’m going to walk for 20 minutes every day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday” or “I’m going to eat at least one serving of vegetables with lunch and dinner every weekday.”

2. Start exercising. Physical activity has plenty of benefits, like lowering your blood pressure, glucose, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. But if you’re not an active person, starting a fitness routine can be tough. The good news is that you don’t need to participate in strenuous activity to see results. Studies show that walking briskly for 30 minutes every day reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30 percent. Start slow, maybe with five or 10 minutes a day, and work your way up to a half an hour. Hiring a personal trainer could also be beneficial, as they can create a program catered to your ability and needs.

3. Nosh on nutritious foods. Skip the fad diets that promise incredible results and focus instead on incorporating healthy, whole foods into your meals. A low-carb plan or the glycemic index diet may help you drop pounds at first, but it’s not a sustainable way of living. Concentrate on variety and portion control, and eat plenty of high-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, and nuts. If the world of nutrition is new to you, working with a dietitian or nutritionist can help you figure out how much of what to eat and when.

4. Kick bad habits. If you smoke, try to quit. Smokers are roughly 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers, says Harvard Health. And heavy smokers have an even higher risk (the same goes for alcohol consumption).

5. Find a safe space. A little bit of encouragement can go a long way. In the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, you’ll spend a year surrounded by a group of supportive colleagues who care about your well-being. It’s important to have a support group, a place where you feel comfortable sharing and learning in private, and people who are there to support you in every step of your journey.

The Greater Carbondale YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program can help you implement a healthier lifestyle to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Learn more by visiting www.greatercarbondaleymca.org or call 570-282-2210.

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