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Want to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes? It's Easy as 1-2-3

I turned to my dear friend and colleague Connie Brown Riggs for the latest on type 2 diabetes prevention. Here she provides a quick overview and her three top tips to help you beat type 2 diabetes.

Turn on the TV and flip channels for a while. Eventually, you’ll come across late breaking news or a commercial about diabetes. In America, almost 24 million people are quietly living with diabetes and researchers tell us it’s reached epidemic proportions. Compounding the problem, approximately 57 million people have pre-diabetes—a condition that puts them at great risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

If your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes, you have pre-diabetes. Just as the word implies, pre-diabetes exists before the actual onset of type 2 diabetes. But there’s good news. The results of the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study (a major study) show that having pre-diabetes doesn’t mean a diabetes diagnosis is inevitable.

The DPP study involved more than 3,000 people who were overweight and had higher than normal blood glucose levels– or pre-diabetes. The DPP tested two approaches to prevent the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes. They had one group modify their lifestyle, lower their intake of fat and calories, and exercise about 30 minutes a day, five days a week.  A second group used the diabetes drug metformin (commonly known as Glucophage). Those who took the drug received standard information on exercise and diet but weren’t required to modify their dietary or exercise habits. When the study ended, the people in the first group—the lifestyle modification group– had lost an average of 15 pounds, and thereby reduced one of the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes. They also reduced their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by a remarkable 58 percent. People older than age 60 reduced their risk by 71 percent.

A diagnosis of pre-diabetes can be worrisome. However, I like to think of it as an opportunity – your chance to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. As the DPP study proves, diabetes isn’t a given. The following tips can help you prevent type 2 diabetes.

Reach and maintain a reasonable body weight.

Obesity and insulin resistance are major risk factors for type 2 diabetes. When you’re heavy, your cells become more insulin resistant. In insulin resistance, the body produces insulin but does not use it properly. Losing as little as 10 to 15 pounds is enough to decrease insulin resistance which means your pancreas won’t need to work as hard to produce insulin.

Make wise food choices most of the time.

  • Eat more poultry and fish. Try lean ground poultry instead of ground beef. Fish contain healthy oils, so choose fish frequently instead of meat.
  • Remove skin and fat from poultry and meats before cooking. Avoid high cooking temperatures or searing meat. High heat locks in the fat.  Moderate cooking temperatures help to reduce the fat.
  • Use low fat cooking methods. Broil, bake, stir fry or grill food instead of frying. When eating out, avoid foods described as buttery, batter dipped, crispy, with gravy or with cheese sauce.
  • Increase fiber by choosing whole grain breads and cereals.  For a healthy diet, eat at least 3 servings of whole-grain products per day. Brown rice, buckwheat, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread and, of course, corn bread are good sources of fiber.
  • Control portions by using the plate method of meal planning. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables. A quarter of the plate is for starchy vegetables and whole grains, and the other quarter is for fish, poultry or meat.

Be physically active every day.

Physical activity can help you lose weight and improve your body’s ability to use insulin. It can also lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. For health benefits, physical activity should be moderate or vigorous and add up to at least 30 minutes a day. If you can’t manage 30 minutes nonstop, you can split up those 30 minutes into several parts. For example, you could take three brisk 10 minute walks, one after each meal.

About the Author:

Connie Brown Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN, is the author of the new book The African American Guide To Living Well With Diabetes (New Page Books, July 2010). She’s also a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and owns a private nutrition consulting practice in Long Island, New York. For more information about Connie and her work, visit

Please let us know how these tips help you or your loved ones tackle type 2 diabetes and better your overall health and well-being!!

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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized and award-winning health and nutrition expert, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books. An avid walker, she loves motivating others to #moveitorloseit. A book lover, she recently earned a certificate in children’s literature from Stony Brook Southampton and is currently working on several young adult novels. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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