World Diabetes Day 2012. Prevention. It’s up to you.

by Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Posted on Nov 12, 12:41 PM in and . No comments.

This year, the theme for World Diabetes Day, (November 14), is “Diabetes: protect our future”. Now, while the UK campaign is actually directed towards awareness and detection of Type 1 diabetes in children, (and this is SO important), I think we can’t ignore the importance of protecting our future by preventing Type 2 diabetes as well. Considering how many people both worldwide and in the United Kingdom have or are predicted to have Type 2 diabetes over the next decade, working on prevention should be a major health priority. There are 2.9 million people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes, and this could rise to 5 million people by 2025.
The Diabetes UK “state of the nation” report 2012 (England) has it in a nutshell when it says “Diabetes is big, it is growing, it is serious and it is expensive. But, it is fixable. After 10 years of knowing what to do, the time for action is now”.

But what can be done? How can we work towards preventing this oncoming tidal wave of numbers developing Type 2 diabetes?

A more important question to ask is: “Is the onus all on the health sector to address the issue or should the responsibility be taken by each and every one of us to prevent ourselves developing Type 2 diabetes?”

There are a number of risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes. It is, to some extent, a lifestyle disease and many cases could be prevented or delayed through simple lifestyle changes. The risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes include obesity, poor diet and inactivity.

Diet is a major player in the development of type 2 diabetes. High fat, high refined carbohydrate and high calorie diets are all linked to obesity and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Changes to our lifestyles can go a long way to working on not meeting the predicted targets for the future.

So what can you do to reduce your risk? Three simple steps.

Manage your weight

Keeping to a healthy weight can reduce your risk of developing diabetes considerably. A growing waistline, particularly, can indicate you are at risk. Keep regular checks and try to keep your weight in the healthy weight range for your height. If you are overweight, even losing 5-7% of your body weight has been shown to reduce the risk of developing Type Diabetes by 50%.

Re-haul the diet

Whether you have weight to lose, or just want to keep on track, a dietary make-over may go a long way towards reducing your risk. Write down what you are eating and when and have a good look at the quality of your diet. Are you eating too many refined carbohydrate foods? Are your meal patterns irregular? Do processed foods figure a lot in your week? Changing the way we eat can seem very difficult, especially if it feels like we suddenly have to give up foods or treats we really enjoy, or change the way we cook and shop. In fact, achieving a healthy diet isn’t as difficult as you might think. It can sometimes only take a few changes to make a big difference to your diet.

Changes you could make:

  • Watch your portions – make sure you are not overdoing these. (I’ll include a portion size guide in my next blog)
  • Include more fruit and, more importantly, vegetables
  • Limit highly refined/processed carbohydrate foods
  • Include wholegrains in your diet . Whole grains include wholemeal or wholegrain breads or crispbreads, dark ‘seedy’ breads, wholegrain breakfast cereals, wheatgerm, brown rice, puffed whole grains, bulgar, couscous, popcorn and oatmeal.
  • Skip sugary drinks
  • Go low GI- make your carbohydrate choices are low Glycaemic Index
  • Check your fats- make sure you get a variety of the different types of fats, in moderation, and avoid large amounts of processed or sugar and fat combinations
  • Go “real” and avoid processed foods and snacks, opting for “real food” instead.

Be more active

Even 30 minutes a day could help towards reducing your risk of developing diabetes. Regardless of your shape or size, physical activity has been shown to add years to your life, and life to your years. But you don’t have to run out and join a gym. even simple increases to activity will make a difference. I’m sure there are lots of ways to increase the activity you do each day…see what you can come up with.

Why not try:

  • Using the stairs instead of the lift/escalator
  • Walking with the kids to school instead of driving
  • Counting your steps with a pedometer, aiming to increase these each day
  • Go for a family walk after dinner
  • Turn off the telly and find something to do in the house (sorry this does mean housework) or the garden
  • Get an exercise DVD
  • Joining a sports team or group (these are around for most ability levels)
  • Ride your bike to work or to the shops (if possible)
  • Finding a pool you like and swimming a few times a week
  • Put on some music and dance

It’s three simple steps that we can all follow to try and take responsibility for our own health and preventing the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. It’s so easy to blame the government, the health sector and society but at the end of the day, when you consider these three steps, we can all find one or two things in there to change. These lifestyle changes and stopping smoking, (if you smoke), will have a major impact on your risk.

Have a lifestyle “re-haul” as your contribution to World Diabetes Day….what will you change?

Tags: Exercise, Type 2 Diabetes, Weight Management, Wholegrains, World Diabetes Day

About the author

Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Anne is a Health Professions Council (HPC) registered dietitian (RD), an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD- Australia), a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and of The Dietetics Association of Australia.

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