Campaign gives tips for reducing diabetes risk

University of Illinois Extension

Understanding the risk factors and adopting healthy behaviors can dramatically decrease your risk of developing diabetes, says Diane Reinhold, Extension nutrition and wellness educator. (Photo courtesy of University of Illinois Extension)

More than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes; that’s one in 10. An additional one in three U.S. adults have prediabetes, and 84 percent of them do not realize they have it.

University of Illinois Extension unveiled a social media awareness campaign on Nov. 1 to raise awareness and educate those impacted by diabetes. The monthlong campaign is featured on Extension’s nutrition and wellness social media platforms.

Diabetes occurs when a person’s blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Prediabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

About 90 to 95 percent of those living with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. “It often takes years for type 2 diabetes to develop and is usually diagnosed in adults; however, more and more teens and young adults are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes,” says Diane Reinhold, Extension nutrition and wellness educator. “Although researchers do not fully understand why some people develop diabetes and others do not, they know excess body weight, unhealthy food choices, and lack of physical activity are major risk factors.”

There is good news; understanding the risk factors and adopting healthy behaviors can dramatically decrease your risk of developing diabetes, Reinhold says. For a simple risk screening, check out the American Diabetes Associations website and use their one-minute test.

“This social media campaign provides daily practical tips related to increasing your knowledge about diabetes prevention and management,” Reinhold says. “In addition, join Extension’s 5-week virtual webinar series, Managing Diabetes in a Modern World. The webinar topics range from meal planning, setting realistic health goals, and talking with your healthcare provider to find resources to manage diabetes better. The Managing Diabetes in a Modern World recorded webinar series are available online at no cost.

Steps you can take

If you are overweight, losing as little as 5 percent to 7 percent of your current body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes, Reinhold says. “For example, a person weighing 180 pounds could improve their health by losing just 9 to 13 pounds, which may sound much more realistic than thinking you need to lose 50 pounds before you can get your health under control,” Reinhold says. Losing weight not only reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes; it will also have a significant impact on your overall health.

Weight-loss is just one component of a wellness journey. A healthy, well-balanced diet can lower risks of developing other chronic health conditions. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide evidence-based nutrition information and advice. The guides are designed to help Americans make healthy choices about food and beverages, including incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins into daily diets while limiting the amount of saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium.

Engaging in regular physical activity is one of the most important things people can do to improve their health and reduce your risk of developing diabetes. “Moving more and sitting less has tremendous health benefits for everyone, regardless of age or current fitness level,” Reinhold says.

Adults require at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and should perform muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days each week. In addition to reaching a healthy weight, eating healthy, and being more active, include regular discussions with healthcare providers.

The University of Illinois Extension Nutrition & Wellness program encourages individuals, families, and communities to live healthier through online and in-person skill sharing. Learn about managing diabetes, safely preserving foods, being food-safe at home, and making healthier choices when shopping, cooking, and meal planning. Check the website or follow along on Facebook.

Diane Reinhold, MPH, MS, RDN, University of Illinois Extension, Nutrition & Wellness Educator