Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of cases of diabetes, in which blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be prevented, even among people who have already been diagnosed with prediabetes, a condition where the blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet in the diabetic range.
The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that prediabetic participants who made lifestyle changes were 58 percent less likely to develop the disease after three years.
The goal of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) Diabetes Prevention and Control Program is to educate the public on how to prevent and manage diabetes, as well as improve access to high-quality diabetes care.
Who Is at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes?
A number of characteristics increase a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes, as well as prediabetes, a condition which 37 percent of American adults have according to the CDC’s National Diabetes Statistics Report. Those who are most at risk for diabetes:
- Have high blood pressure or cholesterol;
- Have an immediate family history of diabetes;
- Are overweight or obese (you can use the CDC’s adult BMI calculator to determine if you are in one of these categories);
- Are African American, Native American, Asian/Pacific Islander, or Hispanic;
- Are not physically active;
- Are more than 45 years old; or
- Have experienced gestational diabetes or have given birth to an infant weighing more than 9 pounds.
What Can You Do to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?
The most important thing you can do is to get tested — early and regularly. Find a physician in Massachusetts if you’re at risk. With help from your doctor, you can prevent diabetes with just a few simple lifestyle changes, specifically:
- Losing between 5 and 10 percent of your body weight if you’re overweight;
- Starting a moderate exercise routine — at least 30 minutes most days of the week; and
- Eating healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
There are many ways to accomplish these goals, including taking advantage of some of the resources Massachusetts offers.
- The Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse has dozens of diabetes resources, including materials in Spanish and Portuguese, for residents.
- Mass in Motion provides opportunities and support for healthier, more active living in communities across the state.
- The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) has guides to help people take small steps to change their diet and lifestyle that add up.
- Several YMCA branches offer YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program (YDPP), a group education series based on the results from the NIH DPP study that teaches the most effective lifestyle changes for preventing diabetes. Residents can locate a participating Y for more information.
What Are the Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?
Although type 2 diabetes is associated with several symptoms, not every patient will experience the same — or any — signs. It’s important to be tested if you’re in a high-risk group for the disease, no matter how you’re feeling. Signs of diabetes include:
- Excessive thirst or hunger;
- Slow-healing wounds;
- Frequent urination;
- Frequent infections;
- Changes in vision; and
Prediabetic individuals typically do not experience any symptoms, but may notice dark patches of skin around their neck or armpits.
Start making healthier lifestyle changes today. For more information on diabetes care, contact DPH’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Program.
Do you have prediabetes? What strategies have you used to be healthier? Share your favorite tips with us @MassGov.
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