Nurses are on the frontlines of medical care, and when it comes to diabetes, they are often the ones who:
- Diagnose it early
- Provide self-management training and psychological support to help prevent complications
- Educate the public about risk factors for Type 2 diabetes in order to prevent it
Type 2 Diabetes Prevention
Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is not preventable, type 2 diabetes is largely preventable. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, about 9 out of 10 cases of type 2 diabetes in the U.S. can be prevented by making certain lifestyle changes. These changes can also reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Being overweight is the most common cause of type 2 diabetes. It increases the risk of developing the disease by seven times. Being obese increases the risk by 20 to 40 times.
Getting the recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week means that you’re making your muscles work harder and improving their ability to absorb glucose and use insulin. This means your insulin-making cells are less stressed. Remaining inactive does the exact opposite and places a large stress on insulin-making cells.
Healthy eating doesn’t mean cutting out all carbohydrates, but it does mean a certain degree of carb control. If you do eat carbs, choosing whole grains over refined or processed grains is always a better health choice. The same goes for fats — not all fats are bad, like those found in avocado and peanut butter. But there are definitely fats that are bad, and those should be minimized in your diet. Water is always a better choice than soda or other sugary drinks, and poultry and fish are usually better choices than red meat.
Smokers are approximately 50 times more at risk to develop type 2 diabetes than non-smokers. Additionally, people who have diabetes and smoke are likely to have trouble with insulin dosing and disease management.
Making the Right Choices
The above factors are in our control. Of course, there are some factors that aren’t in our control, like genetics. It can happen that even someone who follows all of the above principles still develops diabetes. But it’s rare. People who are able to live a healthy lifestyle have a better chance of aging without accruing various health problems along the way. While it’s a tall order, it’s also empowering to know that so much of our future depends on the choices we make today. On World Diabetes Day, let’s all commit to making the right choices.