Diabetes affects nearly 26 million Americans, and an estimated 79 million are at risk for developing the disease. In North Carolina, diabetes affects more than 600,000 adults, including 10,000 in Johnston County. Estimates show that by 2050, as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes, unless we do something to stop it. For people living with diabetes or at risk for diabetes, family support is critical to staying healthy.
In observance of National Diabetes Month, the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) wants people to know that diabetes is a family affair. Individuals, families and communities need to take action and encourage simple, but important lifestyle changes to improve their health – particularly if they have diabetes or are at risk for the disease. Together, we can reverse these staggering statistics and make diabetes a thing of the past.
How can you and your family work together to decrease your risk for diabetes? If you are at high risk, there are many factors that can lead to the onset of diabetes, including poor diet, lack of exercise, and other bad habits. With the support of your family, there are many ways you can work to change these.
Improve Your Diet
With the increasing availability of fast food and the expense often associated with eating healthy, more and more people are developing a poor diet, which can lead to diabetes. Changing your eating habits can be very difficult, but family support and participation can make it easier. What should you and your family do to help improve your diet?
You: Set small goals for yourself to slowly change unhealthy eating habits. If you try to do everything at once and don’t succeed, it can be very discouraging. Instead, pick one thing each week that you will focus on, and allow yourself to feel a sense of achievement each time you accomplish a goal, no matter how small.
Your Family: They don’t have to follow the exact goals you set for yourself, but if you’ve given up cookies or pizza, they should make sure not to keep those items in the house and not to eat them in front of you. If you want to cook more at home, your family should participate in these meals. You should all find ways to encourage healthy eating for the whole family, like trying new recipes together or all packing lunches for work and school.
Learn More: 5 Tips for Controlling Portion Size
Increase Your Exercise Routine
Lack of exercise can cause obesity, high cholesterol, poor blood circulation, and many other health concerns that can all lead to diabetes. Staying active is crucial to preventing and
managing diabetes, but it can be hard to get motivated if you’re not used to regular exercise. What should you and your family do to improve your exercise routine?
You: Again, start small. It will be very hard to go from no exercise to 7 days a week at the gym. There are simple things you can do to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, such as taking a 10-minute walk on your lunch break or doing simple stretches while you watch TV. Once you get accustomed to this, consider joining a gym, playing a sport, or starting an at-home fitness routine.
Your Family: Working out is much easier when it’s with someone else. Many gyms offer family discounts, so everyone can join and take turns going to classes together. On the weekends, play a friendly game of flag football, or all go for a walk at a local park.
Learn More: 5 Exercises for a Healthy Heart
Make Positive Lifestyle Changes
High blood pressure, high blood glucose, and high cholesterol are all factors that can lead to the onset of diabetes. These problems can develop from a variety of lifestyle choices, such as smoking, high levels of stress, increased alcohol consumption, and of course, diet and exercise. Making small changes to live a healthier lifestyle can greatly reduce your risk for diabetes. What should you and your family do to live a healthier lifestyle?
You: If you smoke or drink, it’s time to kick those habits. If you can’t quit cold turkey, try a patch, nicotine gum, or other methods. It’s hard, but it is possible if you find the method that’s right for you. If you drink more than a few drinks a week, try to cut back. Only have a drink in social settings on the weekends.
Your Family: If a family member smokes or drinks, make a pact to quit together, and check in on each other’s progress. Don’t keep alcohol or cigarettes in the house. Plan one night a week to have fun together, like going to the movies or playing a game. Enjoying time with family can greatly reduce stress and lead to overall happiness and health.
Learn More: 5 Steps to Quit Smoking