How Might Diabetes Affect You?
Last Saturday, I had the privilege of joining celebrity chef Charles Mattocks for the Phoenix leg of his “The Diabetic You” tour. I spent the day on the tour bus answering questions about Type 2 diabetes and spreading the word about its prevention. Charles prepared samples of healthy foods, and talked with guests about his own experience with Type 2 diabetes. Above is a photo of Charles and I in front of the tour bus.
The tour bus was parked at the downtown Phoenix farmer’s market, and I expected it to draw the attention of people with Type 2 diabetes. What I did not expect was that many people without diabetes came onto the bus wanting to learn how to prevent diabetes.
Anytime I’m asked a question about nutrition or health, I figure there are probably others who have the same question, and that it may be a good topic to write about. So for today’s newsletter, I’m answering the 3 main questions I heard on the tour.
1. “Many of my family members have Type 2 diabetes. So I’m doomed to get diabetes too, right?”
No. Although there is an undeniable genetic component to Type 2 diabetes, having a family member who has diabetes is only one risk factor. Other risk factors include being overweight, being inactive, race, age, and having had gestational diabetes or prediabetes. Improving lifestyle factors, including what you eat and how active you are, can have a significant enough effect to delay or completely prevent Type 2 diabetes.
2. “How can I prevent Type 2 diabetes?”
Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity weekly. Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program, and start with whatever activity and duration your current fitness level will allow, and then increase in gradual increments.
Improve your diet. At meals, fill half your plate with nonstarchy vegetables (vegetables other than corn, peas, and potatoes.) You can still eat corn, peas, and potatoes, but you will count them as a starch. Fill ¼ of your plate with starch, preferably a whole grain, and the other ¼ of your plate with lean meat. Eat with these proportions at least 80% of the time. Cut restaurant portions in half by taking half home and eating it for another meal, or by sharing a restaurant meal with someone else. Avoid sugared beverages: instead drink water, diet soda, or unsweetened or artificially sweetened iced tea, hot tea, or water. Reserve sweets for special occasions or occasional treats.
Be screened for diabetes yearly. The earlier Type 2 diabetes is caught, the more easily it can be controlled and complications can be minimized.
3. “I have Type 2 diabetes. Am I going to have all the complications that my relatives have had?”
Not necessarily. When blood sugar is controlled over the years, risk of complications in people with Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented to a significant degree. Follow the guidelines above for eating and exercise, see a Registered Dietitian, and enroll in a diabetes education course. Visit the doctor every 3 months when uncontrolled, and every 6 months even when your blood sugar is in good control. Yearly you should have a diabetic foot exam, a dilated eye exam, a urine microalbumin test, and a cholesterol panel.
What questions do you have about diabetes? You may discuss in the comments section below.