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A Healthy Lifestyle for Diabetes Prevention

November 16, 2017 by HealthyFamilies BC

A Healthy Lifestyle for Diabetes Prevention

Whether you have a family history of diabetes, have pre-diabetes or are at risk for diabetes, there are actions you can take to reduce your risk.

Type 2 Diabetes happens when your body is not producing enough insulin or doesn’t respond as well to the insulin produced. Your body needs insulin to use carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are found in foods like grain products, fruit and starchy vegetables, milk and yogurt, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), and sweet foods like cake, cookies and sugary drinks. When you eat and digest carbohydrates, glucose (sugar) enters your blood. Your body releases insulin into the blood to use the glucose for energy and to store it for later. Without enough insulin, more glucose stays in the blood, leading to high blood glucose levels and potential for pre-diabetes or Type 2 Diabetes.

Research shows that physical activity and healthy eating helps lower diabetes risk. An added bonus is that being active and eating healthy also helps lower the risk of other chronic conditions like heart disease and can help you move toward or maintain a healthy weight.

Physical Activity and Diabetes Prevention

All adults are recommended to strive for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week, with more being better. This can be walking briskly, swimming, biking, or hiking. As long as your heart is pumping harder and you are breathing faster, it’s beneficial. Two resistance training sessions per week are also recommended. Good examples of this are body weight exercise, heavy yard work, or lifting weights. Here’s why:

  • Regular activity increases your sensitivity to insulin. In other words, your body responds better to insulin, which helps control your blood sugar.
  • Regular aerobic exercise helps keep your blood sugar down, because working muscles can use it as fuel. So if you are regularly active, exercise helps keep your blood sugar in check.
  • Resistance training can increase muscle mass which in turn helps to lower blood glucose, especially in the pre-diabetes stage.
  • Being active can help you maintain a healthy weight. Being at a healthy weight is associated with better ability to control blood sugar levels which can help prevent the progression to Type 2 Diabetes.

Healthy Eating and Diabetes Prevention

Choose healthy foods for the energy you need to stay active and maintain a healthy weight. Here are some healthy eating tips for diabetes prevention:

  • Aim for three meals a day at regular times. Eating regularly gives your body energy throughout the day and helps keep blood glucose steady.
  • Check out the Eat Well Plate to help balance portion sizes and food choices.
    • Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies - they are high in fibre and packed with nutrition.
    • Choose high fibre whole grains such as oats, millet, brown or red rice, quinoa and whole grain whole wheat, rye or barley. High fibre foods digest slowly and can help keep blood glucose in a healthy range.
    • Include plant based meat alternatives such as tofu and choose fish, lean meat and poultry
  • Limit added sugars. High sugar food leads to high blood glucose and the need for more insulin.

For more information on physical activity and healthy eating to help reduce diabetes risk, call 8-1-1 and ask for a qualified exercise professional or a registered dietitian, Monday to Friday 9 am-5 pm.

Talk to your health care provider to find out if you are at risk for diabetes or to have your blood glucose checked. Check out a screening event; look for events near you through Diabetes Canada. Click the link or call them at 1-800-226-8464.

Every November, World Diabetes Day is recognized in British Columbia. This awareness initiative shares information about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle in reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. This year’s theme was Women and diabetes - our right to a healthy future. Learn more.

Author’s Bio: Today’s blog was a collaborative effort between two of our regular writers; Normand Richard, a certified exercise physiologist and Catherine Atchison, a registered dietitian.

Related blogs

Food and Meal Planning for Diabetes
Diabetes and Physical Activity Q&A

Recommended resources

Diabetes Canada
Diabetes Canada: Healthy Living Resources



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