Am I at Risk?
That's the first question you need to ask yourself. In the same manner that you don't go reviewing term life insurance rates rates only after you've been diagnosed with a serious ailment, the best cure for diabetes is understanding the risks and its implications to your lifestyle.
Although you can't change all of them, you can make substantial changes to lower your risk of diabetes. The rest of this handout tells you about each risk factor and what you can do.
Obesity is the single most important risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Between 80% and 90% of people with diabetes are overweight -- that means they weigh at least 20% more than the ideal body weight for their height and build. To figure out if you're overweight, check the chart at the end of this handout and talk to your doctor. A healthy, low-fat diet and regular exercise can help you lose weight gradually and keep it off.
The risk for type 2 diabetes increases with age. Half of all people diagnosed with diabetes are over 55. Although you can't change your age, you can work on other risk factors if you are over 45 years of age.
Although you can't change your family history either, it is important for you and your doctor to know what "runs in the family." Having 1 relative with diabetes doubles your chances of having it, and having 2 relatives with diabetes quadruples your chances. Tell your doctor if anyone in your family has diabetes.
Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of diabetes. Any amount of activity is better than none, but try to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. If you haven't exercised for a while or you have health problems, talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
A diet high in fat, calories and cholesterol increases your risk of diabetes. In addition, a poor diet can lead to obesity (another risk factor for diabetes) and other health problems. A healthy diet is high in fiber and low in fat. Also, remember to watch your portion size -- how much you eat is just as important as what you eat.
Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes that happens only during pregnancy. It occurs in about 3% of pregnant women. Although gestational diabetes goes away after pregnancy, about 40% of women who had gestational diabetes are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within 15 years.
Even if they don't have gestational diabetes, women who give birth to babies weighing 9 pounds or more are more likely to have type 2 diabetes later in life.
Multiple risk factors
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with the number of risk factors you have. If you have 2 or more risk factors, talk to your doctor about how to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.