How to reduce your risk of diabetes

Diabetes is among the most prevalent diseases in the U.S. According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2012, an estimated 29 million people throughout the country had the illness, affecting over 9 percent of the population. There are also around 86 million adults aged 20 years or older with prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than they should be, but not yet high enough for a diabetes diagnosis.

While Type 1 diabetes - which affects 5 percent of those diagnosed with the disease - is genetic, there are several lifestyle factors, such as your diet and level of physical activity, that determine your risk of Type 2 diabetes. November is National Diabetes Month, so it's the perfect time to familiarize yourself with steps to lower your chances of developing the condition. Use these preventative measures to start actively lowering your risk for Type 2 diabetes.

Determine your risk level The American Diabetes Association pointed out the alarming fact that of the estimated 29 million people with diabetes, 21 million had not been diagnosed. This means that they aren't getting the proper treatment to ensure they don't reach the advanced stages of the disease.The side effects associated with the onset of Type 2 diabetes are mild in some people, which can make the condition challenging to recognize.

This is why it's a good idea to find out how at risk you are of developing diabetes. If you have any risk factors of the disease, such as high blood pressure or unhealthy cholesterol levels, it may be a good idea to get screened for the condition. Similarly, an inactive lifestyle and habits like smoking will increase your chances of developing diabetes. If any of these risk factors apply to you, consider getting tested for the disease by your doctor. 

Consider getting your blood pressure checked to ensure you aren't at a heightened risk of developing diabetes.Consider getting your blood pressure checked to ensure you aren't at a heightened risk of developing diabetes.

Know the symptoms There are several common symptoms that people experience during the early stages of Type 2 diabetes. Knowing what they are will enable you to get diagnosed early and start getting the proper treatment if you do have the disease. One of these side effects is frequent urination as a result of the excess glucose in the bloodstream that the kidneys need to flush out through the bladder.

If you're chronically exhausted, this may also be a side effect of Type 2 diabetes. Although fatigue is a symptom of many illnesses, including everything from the common cold to iron deficiencies, it's often associated with diabetes because the cells in diabetes patients' muscles don't receive enough glucose, resulting in a lack of energy. It's important to mention your fatigue to your doctor, especially when combined with other symptoms of diabetes like blurred vision, frequent infections and slow-healing wounds.

"Replace sugary drinks with options like tea, coffee or water."

Switch up your diet Harvard School of Public Health explained that there are specific changes you can make to your diet that will help prevent Type 2 diabetes. Choose whole grain products to benefit from the high amount of bran and fiber instead of processed carbohydrates, which have a high glycemic index and cause spikes in blood sugar. Replace sugary drinks, such as sodas or juices, with water, tea or coffee, as studies have found that those who consume beverages high in sugar have greater chances of developing diabetes. One study in particular showed that people who drank at least one sweetened beverage every day were over 80 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who drank less than one per month.

Limit the amount of red meat you eat, swapping it out for healthier proteins like chicken, fish, nuts and low-fat dairy products. Quitting bad habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption - women should have no more than one drink a day and men should have no more than two - will also lower your risk.          

Stay physically active Exercising regularly is a crucial component to avoiding Type 2 diabetes because it helps you control your weight - being overweight is one of the main risk factors for diabetes. It also improves your mood and enhances your sleep quality. If you haven't been physically active in the past, don't be intimidated by the idea of jumping into a new workout routine. Start small, setting achievable goals and working up from there.

For example, the American Diabetes Association suggested taking a 15-minute brisk walk every day after lunch four days a week. As you become more comfortable with regular exercise, increase the length and intensity of each session - even the smallest adjustments can make a big difference in your diabetes risk level. If you reside at an assisted living community, see if there are exercise programs you can join so that you have the support of friends as you make strides toward a healthier lifestyle.