Older woman speaking and consulting with the doctor about her concerns

Lowering the Risk of Diabetes

The notorious “Freshman 15” – those extra pounds college students can pack on when they first live away from home – has now morphed into the “Quarantine 15” during this coronavirus pandemic as more adults are stressed, have irregular schedules, limited access to gyms but plenty of facetime with their snack-filled cupboards. 

Today, one in three U.S. adults have prediabetes. Of those, 84% do not know they are in this danger zone because there are no clear symptoms. This figure is more concerning now due to COVID-delayed check-up when people are typically reminded by their doctor to eat healthy and exercise. Since weight gain and sedentary behaviors can increase the risk for prediabetes or even progression to Type 2 diabetes, developing healthy and sustainable habits is critical to prevention.  

Be aware of prediabetes

Prediabetes can develop when a person’s body is not using insulin correctly or making enough to process glucose, also known as blood sugar, properly. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps the body process blood sugar into energy. If a person’s blood sugar is too high for extended periods, often seen with Type 2 diabetes, it can result in long-term damage like heart and kidney disease, limb and vision loss. 

Prediabetes is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes, but it can be reversed or prevented by focusing on healthier lifestyle habits. Risk factors include age, family history, obesity, poor diet and consistent inactivity.  

Make movement a priority

The CDC recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week.  Here are tips to get moving: 

  • Take a walk around the block every couple of hours.  
  • Set phone reminders for daily exercise.  
  • Turn a conference call into a walking meeting.  
  • Use laundry detergent containers, canned goods or other household items as hand weights for exercises such as squats or lunges. 

Establish healthy eating habits

When implementing portion control and mindful eating habits, it’s important to understand that it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register signals from the stomach that it’s full. This often results in overeating and excessive calorie intake. Here are some ways to keep the grazing under control: 

  • Structure snacks and meals throughout the day to prevent boredom eating. 
  • Track food intake to monitor calories and better understand the nutritional value of items. 
  • Don’t eat out of bags – portion out nuts, pretzels and crackers. 
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand such as cut fruits and vegetables, a handful of nuts, hummus or Greek yogurt dip. 
  • Those at high risk for diabetes or who think they may be experiencing symptoms should speak with their primary care physician for more information. 

Shanthi Appelo is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more tips on lowering your risks of diabetes, visit ahealthiermichigan.org. 

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Photo credit: Getty 

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