This week marks Diabetes Week, an annual highlight in the charity Diabetes UK’s calendar, which aims to raise awareness of the conditions and vital funds for their work. This year’s theme is Know Diabetes. Fight Diabetes.
In-keeping with the theme, we have delved into this condition to determine if you can reduce your risk, giving us the knowledge to ensure we minimise our chances of developing the condition.
You can reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. But around 3 in 5 cases of Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented by making simple changes in our everyday lives.
How can I reduce my risk?
Some of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes– such as age, ethnic background, or family history – can’t be changed, but others can. The good news is that we can all make small changes to help us reduce our risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Start by asking yourself:
- What healthy changes can I make to eat better?
- How can I move more every day?
Getting active and staying active will reduce your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, and you’ll feel great.
Being physically active and moving more each day not only reduces your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, it can also:
- Help you sleep
- Manage your stress levels
- Improve your mood
Remember – doing just a little bit more than you did before is a great start.
You should aim for 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise at least five days a week. Moderate intensity means that your breathing is increased, but you are still able to talk.
This is easily doable by making a few minor changes in your day:
- Get off the bus a stop earlier
- Take the stairs instead of the escalator or lift
- Have a walking meeting or catch up with friends
- Do an extra five minutes when walking the dog
- Walk to the shops to pick up a few items
- Use a pedometer to keep track of your steps – challenge yourself to do more the next day.
It is also important to do some activities that improve your muscle strength on two or more days a week. Don’t forget, this can include everyday activities like gardening or carrying shopping.
Eating well and keeping to a healthy weight can reduce your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. If you’ve found out you’re at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, you probably have some questions about food. The good news is, looking at your food choices can make a big difference and help you take those first few steps to reduce your risk.
- How much you need to eat and drink is based on your age, gender, how active you are and the goals you are looking to achieve.
- Portion sizes have grown in recent years, as the plates and bowls we use have got bigger. Use smaller crockery to cut back on your portion sizes, while making the food on your plate look bigger.
- No single food contains all the essential nutrients you need in the right proportion. That’s why you need to consume foods from each of the main food groups to eat well.
Fruit and vegetables
Naturally low in fat and calories and packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, fruit and vegetables add flavour and variety to every meal. They may also help protect against stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers.
Everyone should eat at least five portions a day. Fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit in juice and canned vegetables in water all count. Go for a rainbow of colours to get as wide a range of vitamins and minerals as possible.
Potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, chapattis, naan and plantain all contain carbohydrate, which is broken down into glucose and used by your cells as fuel. Better options of starchy foods – such as wholegrain bread, wholewheat pasta and basmati, brown or wild rice – contain more fibre, which helps to keep your digestive system working well. They are generally more slowly absorbed (that is, they have a lower glycaemic index, or GI), keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Meat, fish eggs, pulses, beans and nuts
These foods are high in protein, which helps with building and replacing muscles. They contain minerals, such as iron, which are vital for producing red blood cells. Oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, also provide omega-3, which can help protect the heart. Beans, pulses, soya and tofu are also good sources of protein.
Aim to have some food from this group every day, with at least 1–2 portions of oily fish a week.
Milk, cheese and yogurt contain calcium, which is vital for growing children as it keeps their bones and teeth strong. They’re good sources of protein, too.
Some dairy foods are high in fat, particularly saturated fat, so choose lower-fat alternatives (check for added sugar, though). Semi-skimmed milk actually contains more calcium than whole milk, but children under 2 should have whole milk because they may not get the calories or essential vitamins they need from lower-fat milks. Don’t give children skimmed milk until they’re at least 5. Aim to have some dairy every day, but don’t overdo it.
Foods high in fat and sugar
You can enjoy food from this group as an occasional treat in a balanced diet, but remember that sugary foods and drinks will add extra calories – and sugary drinks will raise blood glucose – so opt for diet/light or low-calorie alternatives. Or choose water – it’s calorie free!
Fat is high in calories, so try to reduce the amount of oil or butter you use in cooking. Remember to use unsaturated oils, such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil, as these types are better for your heart.
Too much salt can make you more at risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Processed foods can be very high in salt. Try cooking more meals from scratch at home, where you can control the amount of salt you use – when there are so many delicious spices in your kitchen, you really can enjoy your favourite recipes with less salt. Adults should have no more than 1 tsp (6g) of salt a day, while children have even lower targets.
Tags: diabetes, health tips, nutrition