Can diabetes be prevented?
Many cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by making lots of small changes to your diet and lifestyle. A record number of people in the UK are living with type 2 diabetes and this figure is only set to increase. This means that many more people will experience the complications associated with diabetes which can have serious impacts on your health.
If you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the good news is that by learning more about it, and implementing small changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can prevent it occurring in the first place.
Am I at risk?
About 90% of people that have diabetes have type 2. Normally it occurs in people over the age of 40 but there are some cases of younger people developing it. It generally develops slowly so you may not notice any symptoms of it, or there may be no symptoms at all. This is why it is really important to know your risk for developing type 2 so you can take action to prevent it from occurring. The following are established risk factors for developing type 2:
· Your risk increases over time. You’re more at risk if you’re white and over 40 or over 25 if you’re African-Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian.
· You are overweight, in particular if you carry weight around your middle.
· If you have high blood pressure
· It’s 2-4 times more prevalent in people of South Asian descent and African-Caribbean or Black African descent
· If you have a parent, sibling or child with diabetes
To calculate your own risk of developing type 2 diabetes then please click here.
I’m at risk, what can I do?
Knowing that you are at risk is the first step towards preventing type 2 diabetes, and the good news is that making small changes to your diet and lifestyle will help reduce risk considerably. The 3 areas where you can make these changes are:
· Losing weight
· Increasing physical activity
· Improving your diet
This can feel really daunting to start with but please remember you are not alone and there’s lots of free help out there! A good place to start is by visiting your GP surgery. They can do an assessment of your general health, discuss a weight loss plan that works for you and signpost you to local resources to help you achieve your goals.
The NHS has some great resources online to help with weight loss which are free to download. One of these is the NHS weight loss plan which was developed in association with the British Dietetic Association.
The plan promotes safe and sustainable weight loss and is delivered through 12 weekly information packs. Other features of this plan include an activity and food chart to help you record calories, exercise and weight loss and there’s even an online community to help support you with your weight loss journey.
If you would prefer to find a weight loss support group that you could attend, you can find local services through the NHS by clicking here.
Increasing physical activity
The NHS has a Get fit for free section which has lots of great ideas about how you can start building exercise into your everyday life, like taking the stairs at work instead of the lift or getting off the bus a few stops early and walk the rest home.
Small changes can make a big difference to start with and gives you a great foundation to build on. One of the most popular exercise programmes that the NHS has produced is the Couch to 5K podcast. Going for a run can seem like a daunting prospect for many, but the good thing about this plan is that it is made for absolute beginners, and it really works!
The plan is split up into 9 weeks and involves a mixture of walking and running, designed to build up your fitness and stamina. It is a fantastic programme and by the end of it, you really will be able to run 5k!
A top tip to keep you motivated is having an exercise buddy. If someone else is doing it with you, you’re less likely to cancel or talk yourself out of doing it so find out who also wants to get fit and make it happen!
Your local leisure centre may also offer some initiatives such as free exercise classes or free swimming on certain days of the week. You can find out what your local council offers by clicking here.
Improving your diet
Knowledge is power and knowing what’s in your food makes a huge difference to weight loss. Many people can think they are eating well as something is advertised as ‘low fat’ or ‘low calories’ yet it may have huge amounts of hidden sugar or salt in it.
It can also be de-motivating if you are trying really hard to eat ‘healthily’ and not seeing the results on the scales. Knowing what is in the food you are eating is essential to losing weight and keeping it off.
There can be a lot of mixed messages about what to eat and what not to eat and there’s also lots of debates about which diets are the most effective, such as low carb, vegan, low fat, eat clean… the list is endless.
A healthy diet is a balanced diet and is best represented by the Eatwell Guide. A balanced diet involves eating from every food group, as they all provide essential vitamins and minerals to keep our bodies healthy, but in different proportions. No food is off limits, it is all about moderation.
Have a look at the NHS Live-Well Eat-Well website which gives lots of great information about all of the different food groups and lots of everyday smart swops you can make to help with weight loss.
There’s also information about food labelling and what to look for so you can make informed choices about what you’re eating.