Monday, March 11, 2013

Ask Us Anything: What Can I Do to Lessen My Chances of Getting Diabetes?

"I have a long family history of diabetes. What can I do to lessen my chances of getting diabetes?"

Registered Dietitian Deborah Richter Responds:

First, it is important that we review the risk factors for developing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

The American Diabetes Association has a short test that you could take that identifies your risk. Go to to take the test to assess your current risk.

The risk factors are:
  • being overweight
  • having high blood pressure (at or above 130/80mmHg)
  • family history of diabetes
  • having diabetes during pregnancy or having a baby weighing more than nine pounds at birth
Additionally diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

So what can you do to reduce the risk of developing diabetes?
  • Keep or get your weight in control
  • Stay active most days of the week
  • Eat lower fat meals that are high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Contact your health care provider right away if you become very thirsty, urinate often and start to lose weight without trying.
We hear the messages all the time to lose weight and exercise more, but it does not have to be overwhelming to start to make small changes that can improve your health.

Start by eating breakfast if you don’t already. Include lean protein foods at this meal: egg whites, Canadian bacon, 1% cottage cheese, omega eggs, natural peanut butter, or eat leftover lean meat from the night before.

Add a small fresh fruit to the lunch meal and pack some cucumbers, raw carrots, peppers or other vegetables that you enjoy. Or take some lower sodium vegetable soup that helps to fill you up and increases your vegetable intake.

For dinner, use the plate method: fill half the plate with steamed vegetables and add a salad. Try using an 8” plate so with the smaller portions the plates does not look so empty.

Take caution with beverages since many of the popular beverages have over 200 calories for 12 ounces. For snacks, try some of the delicious whole grain tortilla chips with ¼ cup salsa or hummus. Do not try and lose a lot of weight in a short time. The goal is sustained weight loss.
Increasing physical activity can also be easy to implement.
  • Take a short walk during your lunch break.
  • Get up 10 minutes early and take a 10 minute walk or do some resistance training with light hand weights or resistance bands.
  • Play outside in the afternoon with the kids or grandkids, or just be a kid yourself and play tag with a friend, throw the Frisbee around, or turn up the music loud and dance for two or three songs.
Once you start moving more and find that it increases your energy, it is motivating to want to move more. I know with Buffalo winters it can be easy to get home and snuggle up with a blanket and the TV remote, but resist that tendency and join an exercise class at the local adult education courses, the YMCA or other fitness clubs in the area. Just get up and move!

Aim for 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. Children need to aim for 60 minutes of physical play per day.

Additional resources include:
— Deborah Richter, RD, CDE

Deborah Richter is a registered dietitian at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga and is a certified diabetes educator. She teaches diabetes education classes and provides outpatient nutrition counseling. She has helped her clients to lose weight, reduce their blood pressure and feel better about themselves through healthy eating choices.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

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