Type 2 Diabetes(opens in a new tab) is one of the most prevalent serious diseases in the United States. Diabetes is responsible for a range of complications, such as blindness, amputation, kidney failure, stroke, and heart disease. The American Diabetes Association (opens in a new tab)estimated that diabetes contributed to over 230,000 deaths in 2007. Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease caused by insulin resistance. When we digest food, glucose (sugar) enters the bloodstream to be carried to the cells of the body. The pancreas secretes an appropriate level of insulin to help the glucose enter the cells, much like a key fits a lock. High levels of glucose require the pancreas to secrete high levels of insulin. If there are prolonged levels of high glucose, sometimes the cells become resistant to insulin and the glucose cannot leave the bloodstream, which in turn prompts the pancreas to secrete even more insulin. These elevated blood glucose levels are the cause of Type 2 diabetes. While being overweight or having a family history of diabetes may raise your risk of developing diabetes, it is preventable with knowledge and just a few lifestyle changes(opens in a new tab). Check your glucose and your family history. Insulin resistance can progress to full-blown diabetes with no warning, so if you’re over age 45, it’s a good idea to go to the doctor at least once a year and have your glucose levels checked. If you have a family history of diabetes, glucose checks should start no later than age 40. Watch your diet. Healthy eating is one of the best ways to ward off insulin resistance and diabetes. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and minimize your intake of junk and snack foods. Avoid high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils, and minimize sugary drinks and soda. Choose whole grains such as oats, barley, and wild rice, and buy leaner meat, such as turkey, bison, and fish. Become a label reader and study the ingredients in the foods you eat. The more real food you can eat, the better. Buy less processed food(opens in a new tab), and if the label shows ingredients you can’t pronounce, reconsider buying that food. Do some kind of physical activity every day. Exercise helps keep your blood glucose low, reduces your risk for diabetes, and keeps your heart and lungs healthy. You don’t have to run 20 miles a day to reap the benefits of daily physical activity(opens in a new tab), but you do need to move. The key is to do something you enjoy every day, whether it’s playing tennis, walking the dog, or dancing. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your Type 2 diabetes risk, as well as the risks of heart disease and stroke. Even a small weight loss of 10 or 15 pounds can reduce your risk. Follow the dietary and exercise recommendations above, and set realistic goals for weight loss. Every small step takes you closer to your goal, so keep going even if you get frustrated. Find a support system to help you stay on track. Stop smoking. Smoking raises your blood glucose levels and contributes to insulin resistance. This is why people who smoke often aren’t hungry. To stop smoking(opens in a new tab), call your state’s tobacco quit line. In addition to valuable coaching help to quit, many states offer free or low-cost aids such as nicotine patches and gum. Keep in mind that once you stop smoking, not only does your risk for diabetes go down, but your risks of heart disease, stroke, and cancer are also reduced.

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