Lifestyle Steps for Diabetes Prevention

Young Women w doctorThere is good news if you have pre-diabetes or insulin resistance. Pre-diabetes means prevention is possible. Knowing if you have pre-diabetes or are at increased risk is the first step in taking action to reverse its course. A major research study—the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP)—showed that lifestyle intervention, including modest weight loss, increased physical activity and eating a nutritious diet and fewer calories, reduced developing diabetes by nearly 60 percent. This was observed even in those at greatest risk for diabetes.


Three key lifestyle changes can help you reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

  1. Lose Weight or Maintain a Healthy Weight

    Weight control is important for preventing diabetes and for overall good health. If you’re overweight and have pre-diabetes, even a small amount of weight loss can help restore blood sugar levels to a normal range. Aim to lose five to seven percent of your body weight as a healthy start. For someone who weighs 200 pounds, that means losing 10 to 15 pounds. A combination of regular physical activity and nutritious food choices, including sensible portions, can help you reach your weight loss goal— and feel better overall.

  2. Radtour im Frühling am BodenseeIncrease Physical Activity

    In addition to helping you achieve your weight goal, regular physical activity has many health benefits. It may boost energy, ease stress and anxiety, reduce body fat, enhance sleep quality, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and much more. Regular exercise also moderates blood glucose levels and improves your body’s ability to use insulin. To benefit, aim to do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. Spread your activity throughout the week. For example, go for a 30-minute walk, five days a week.

    Here are some tips to help you get started:
    • While physical activity is safe for most people, it’s best to talk with your doctor first if you haven’t been active in a while, you have a health condition (such as heart disease or high blood pressure), any bone or joint problems or if you are currently pregnant.
    • Choose activities that are realistic and safe for you.
    • Warm up with 5-10 minutes of a lighter activity (such as walking at a slower pace) and cool down with 5-10 minutes of a lighter activity as well.
    • Start slowly and build gradually to 30 minutes or more each day; two 15-minute or three 10-minute sessions a day is just as beneficial.
    • Get your friends and family involved; create a fun activity routine.
    • Look for opportunities to be more active in general. Sit less and move more!
    • Any activity that gets you moving will help. It may be walking, hiking, dancing, cycling, swimming, using gym equipment or taking a group exercise class. Discover a variety of activities to enjoy. Whatever you choose to do, take it easy at first and gradually pick up the pace as you feel your heart rate, breathing and body temperature rise. Moderate intensity is the level when your body systems are revved up but you’re still able to talk comfortably during your activity

    3. Healthy living or Diet concept. Fruits with measuring tape and a weight scaleMake Balanced Food Choices

    There is no magic eating plan for diabetes prevention; but it does require you to be conscious about making better food choices that lead to better eating habits over time. The benefits to you and your family can be enormous. Here are several tips on making nutritious food choices.


    • A colorful variety of fruits and vegetables daily
    • Whole-grain foods such as whole-wheat bread and pasta, whole-grain cereals, brown rice, oatmeal, and barley
    • Beans, peas and lentils as a satisfying side dish or meat replacement two to three times a week
    • At least two meals of fish a week, especially oily fish* rich in omega-3 fat like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines
    • Small portions of heart-healthy fats such as olive, canola, and peanut oil, trans fat-free buttery spreads, nuts and seeds
    • Lean meats ending in “loin” (such as pork loin and sirloin) or skinless chicken or turkey breast
    • 1% or skim milk, low-fat yogurt, and reduced-fat cheeses

    Cut back on:
    • Foods containing trans fat (partially hydrogenated vegetable oil); avoid when possible
    • Salt used to season foods and processed/prepared foods already high in sodium
    • Sugary beverages; choose water instead
    • Foods high in saturated fat such as bacon, sausage, 2% or whole milk, and regular cheeses
    • Fried foods and fast foods
    • High-calorie snack foods and desserts such as chips, cookies, cakes, and ice cream
    • Alcohol
    • Portion sizes. Eating too much of even healthful foods can sabotage weight loss efforts

    Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:
    • Don’t skip meals
    • Consider eating five to six smaller meals daily (if you choose this approach, portion sizes really matter!)
    • Stock your kitchen with nutritious staples
    • Plan ahead for special occasions (eat lightly on the day of a dinner party or celebration, or go for an after-dinner walk)
    • Make simple substitutions in recipes to add more fruits and vegetables or to replace saturated fats (such as butter) with unsaturated fats (such as canola or olive oil)

    Practice the plate approach to help you balance food portions:
    — Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables
    — Fill one-fourth of your plate with whole grains or starchy vegetables
    — Fill one-fourth of your plate with lean meat, poultry, or other protein
    — Have a glass of 1% milk or skim milk and a serving of fruit on the side



Doctor examining patientDiabetes is a growing health problem, but it doesn’t have to be a problem for you. As you work on lifestyle changes, be easy on yourself and set realistic expectations. Don’t try to change too much at one time. Expect minor setbacks, but always keep your goals in sight. Remember to stay with it—lifestyle change takes practice. Remember to complete your Wellness Passport with biometric screening once every calendar year. Click HERE to go to Heartland’s Wellness website where you can download a Wellness Passport because your health matters.

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