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National Diabetes Month

November 15, 2023

National Diabetes Month
By: Jennifer Davis MS, RD, CD

November is the start of National Diabetes Month. During this time, the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics promote education around diabetes and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to help prevent the development of diabetes. One in ten adults in the US have diabetes, and 90% of cases are type 2 diabetes. A healthy lifestyle can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes, especially as we age. Below are some tips to help with healthy habits with the goal of overall health!

Well-balanced diet. Eating a well-balanced diet can help with maintain good overall health. This includes aiming for at least half of your grains being whole grain options (whole grain bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, etc.) and focusing on nutrient dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as lean protein sources. These provide a more rounded benefit to our health and nutritional status compared to foods that may not be as nutritionally dense. Additionally, limiting our intake of processed foods is important. While all foods can, and should, fit into our diet, it is important to think about the enjoyment we get from certain foods. We may enjoy a donut every once and a while and that is perfectly acceptable, however, we want to prioritize the nutrient dense foods first and foremost. These include:

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Rule of thumb, eat the rainbow on your plate when possible. Fruits and vegetables have various nutrition benefits beyond their vitamin, mineral, and fiber content. They contain antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Grains: Whole grains provide us with important amounts of fiber. Most Americans fall short of the recommended daily intake. They also aid with blood sugar management. Aiming for at least half of your grains being whole grain options is the goal here. We may not enjoy all whole grain options, so finding ones we enjoy or can compromise on is a good tactic. For instance, if you don’t like brown rice that is fine! Let’s aim for whole grain bread instead while keeping white rice in the diet.
  • Proteins: Opting for lean proteins, or plant-based proteins, can reduce comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease, MASH, and hypertension. While all animal-based proteins will contain cholesterol, lean animal proteins can increase our good cholesterol, HDL, while lowering bad cholesterol, LDL.

Maintaining an appropriate weight. This helps with reducing insulin resistance, which if developed, can lead to type 2 diabetes and other health complications.

Physical Activity. As the saying goes “objects in motion, stay in motion”. This is applicable to us, especially as we age. Staying active is an important preventative measure against type 2 diabetes and other health concerns such as heart disease, obesity, and osteoporosis. It is recommended to have at least 150 minutes of moderate activity weekly, which can sound like a lot in our busy day-to-day lives. To help achieve this recommendation, finding ways to make that number sound more obtainable is important. This could look like 30 minutes of running, or power walking with your dog, after work. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Additionally, strength and conditioning exercise is also an important component of our overall health including bone and joint health.

Smoking Cessation. Smoking is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Seeking smoking cessation support can help reduce an individual’s risk of this and other health complications such as COPD.

Routine checkups with your primary care doctor. Annual checkups with your PCP are central to maintaining good health. If we don’t know where we stand, we don’t know what might need tweaks or changes. Schedule routine checkups and lab work to see where you are in achieving overall health.