Diabetes Prevention: Four Steps for Diabetes Prevention

February 12, 2011 Updated: February 13, 2011

Almost 26 million people in the United States now suffer from diabetes, according to data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Feb. 11.

The report shows that one in three Americans has a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes in his or her lifetime.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects blood sugar levels and has serious complications, including eye problems, nerve damage in extremities, heart or kidney disease, and even death. Sufferers who have developed the disease are often not diagnosed until several years later, leading them to have higher chances of complications. Early diagnosis is vital to successfully treat the disease and to prevent or at least delay associated complications.

According to the CDC's 2011 national fact sheet, 26 million Americans, or 8.3 percent of the U.S. population, are affected by diabetes, yet seven million of them remain undiagnosed.

Dr. Robert Henry, president of the American Diabetes Association’s Medicine and Science, said that the new CDC data are a “real wake-up call” and highlight the importance “for Americans to know if they are at risk and take action, if needed.”

"Let's use these devastating new numbers as inspiration to work harder and stop diabetes in its tracks,” he said, according to the American Diabetes Association.

The CDC diabetes factsheet shows results of a prevention study, the Diabetes Prevention Program, which showed that lifestyle changes like weight loss and increased exercise lowered development of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent over three years and by as much as 71 percent in older people over 60 years old.

Here are some tips from the ADA to help you prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes:

1. Understand your risks
Inherent risk factors are a family history of diabetes, being over 45 years old, and ethnicity, with African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders being more at risk.

Negative factors that can be controlled include being overweight, inactivity, having an unhealthy diet, smoking, and having above-average blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels.

2. Get a check-up
Regular health checks for blood glucose, blood pressure, and blood lipid levels are very important. Measuring blood glucose shows whether someone has prediabetes or diabetes. For optimal health, maintain a healthy blood pressure, and have normal lipid levels.

3. Exercise
According to experts, 30 minutes of exercise almost daily is beneficial. People not used to this can begin with 10 minutes most days and increase activity levels through habits like taking the stairs or parking further away from destinations.

4. Diet
Make small diet changes, one at a time, for a healthier diet. Have a salad and one vegetable with dinner. Opt for low-calorie snacks, and take a salad and veggies with dinner.

For more information, visit the American Diabetes Association’s website where you will find these three free resources:

* My Health Advisor calculates your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, then shows simple lifestyle changes to help, like losing weight or stopping smoking.

* CheckUp America provides detailed information on risk factors and how to reduce your risk of diabetes.

* Call the Center for Information and Community Support at 1-800-DIABETES for advice and free information in English and Spanish, including the new booklet Top 5 Ways to Stop Diabetes and Get Healthy Right Now!