As you probably know, more Americans are being diagnosed with diabetes than ever before. Yet, about one-third of people with diabetes do not even know they have it. In fact, many people do not find out they have diabetes until they are faced with serious health problems. The good news is that there are ways to find out if you’re at risk for getting diabetes before you get sick.
One way is to look at your family. If you have a mother, father, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, you are at a higher risk. Talking about your family health history may make all the difference when it comes to preventing type 2 diabetes.
If you have had gestational diabetes which occurs during pregnancy, you have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life. Your child is also at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Ways to prevent diabetes
Although you cannot change your personal or family health history, knowing about it can give you the information you need to lower your risk. Working with your healthcare team to take action on the things you can change has been shown to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
If you’re overweight, for example, losing just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can help to lower your diabetes risk. Here are some tips to help you do this:
- Meet with a dietitian to develop a healthy meal plan for you.
- Choose water instead of sugary drinks.
- Eat smaller portions.
- Get enough sleep and reduce stress (stress raises blood glucose).
- Be active for at least 30 minutes, five days a week.
- Write down the foods you eat and the number of minutes you are active each day. Review this information yourself or with a healthcare provider to see if there’s any behavior that can be improved.
What to do if you had gestational diabetes
If you had gestational diabetes, be sure to get tested for diabetes 6 to 12 weeks after your baby is born, and at least once every 3 years after that. Breastfeeding your baby may lower his or her risk for type 2 diabetes, but don’t worry too much if you can’t. There are other ways to keep you and your child healthy. Here are just a few:
- Talk to your healthcare provider if you plan to become pregnant again. She or he may be able to give you advice on preventing or dealing with gestational diabetes.
- Try to reach your pre-pregnancy weight 6 to 12 months after your baby is born. Even moderate weight loss can help.
- Remember that you will always be at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. But by following a healthy lifestyle (especially by getting regular exercise), you can keep yourself healthy and teach your children to do so as well.
By taking these steps to prevent type 2 diabetes, you also are taking steps that can help lower your risk for other health problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and nerve damage. That’s a big reward for you and your family!