Prevent type 2 diabetes with 5 tips from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

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Exercise is an important step in preventing type 2 diabetes. Photo via Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama (photo taken in 2019)

As we close out National Diabetes Awareness month, it’s important to remind ourselves of the risks attached to diabetes. By changing a few habits, you can prevent type 2 diabetes and manage it. We caught up with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s senior medical director, Dr. Anne Schmidt, to learn what resources are available.

1. First, know the facts to prevent type 2 diabetes

woman having blood pressure monitor, prevent type 2 diabetes
Monitoring blood pressure and blood sugar levels is important, but there are other practices you can take to prevent type 2 diabetes as well. Photo via Unsplash

“One of the things that always stands out to me is when you look at national statistics from the CDC, they state if we changed diet and activity level along with people’s use of tobacco we could prevent 80% of type 2 diabetes.” 

Dr. Anne Schmidt, Senior Medical Director, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

You read that right—80%. A 2019 report from the CDC states that from the over 34 million Americans who have diabetes, approximately 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes. Let’s look at how we can lower this statistic.

“Diabetes isn’t just about blood sugar. It affects kidney health and can cause higher rates of kidney failure and dialysis. Diabetes also affects blood sugar and how your body metabolizes fat. There are all kinds of different impacts of diabetes beyond just blood sugar. So, that’s why it’s really important we help patients manage that.”

2. Start with changing small, daily habits

Most people look at any lifestyle change as a daunting task. Even getting up 10 minutes earlier than your normal routine can prove difficult.

It’s true that redirecting daily habits isn’t always as easy as it appears on the surface. But, in order to prevent type 2 diabetes, these modifications won’t require a complete overhaul of your life.

“Incorporate changes into your daily life. We know if you lose 5-7% of your body weight and get 150 minutes of physical activity a week, it can make significant improvements.”

This might look like finding ways to add in an extra green vegetable at lunch and dinnertime as you begin to develop new healthier habits.

20 minutes for some peace of mind

20 minutes of exercise a day can make a huge difference. Photo via Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

In terms of exercise, it’s the same deal. You hear it over and over for a reason—use the stairs, park a little further away, walk around the block on your lunch break.

When it comes to 20 minutes of exercise a day versus kidney disease, I’ll side with the former. We even rounded up 19 trails in Birmingham you can enjoy while also staying socially distanced.

3. Don’t give up because it seems impossible

Birmingham has amazing walking trails that make getting exercise easier and fun. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

A common myth Dr. Schmidt says people tend to believe is that if diabetes runs in your family, you’re doomed. Too often, people give up trying to prevent type 2 diabetes with the notion that their fate is already crystal clear.

Even if you already have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it’s not unrealistic to manage it and live a comfortable life.

“It’s possible to manage diabetes. Some people who have relatives with diabetes might have a fatalistic attitude of, ‘I might as well give up because I’m going to end up like my aunt or dad or grandfather.'”

It’s never too early to start prevention habits

While you can’t prevent type 1 diabetes, BCBSAL has great resources like lifestyle management programs for living with type 1 diagnosis that we’ll talk about later. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is avoidable. Prevention practices should take place as early as possible.

“We are seeing Type 2 diabetes in elementary school-aged children now. It’s never too young to start thinking about preventing the diagnosis.

It’s really about exercise, in addition to your diet. Exercise changes the way your body processes the sugar that you eat.”

4. Prevent type 2 diabetes utilizing BCBSAL’s resources

Whether you’re hoping to prevent diabetes or looking to navigate your condition, BCBSAL has many valuable resources for its members including myBlueWellness. This program provides important information about making better choices when it comes to managing habits and becoming compliant with a treatment plan.

“BCBSAL offers chronic condition coaching programs. Type 2 diabetes is one of the diagnoses most prevalent in our state. We use clinical guidelines and offer educational materials and self-management support strategies for members.”

5. Know BCBSAL is here to help

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, BCBSAL ensures you’re on the best track to managing it.

“If you manage your diabetes well, you can live a long and healthy life. BCBSAL can definitely help through diabetes prevention programs and chronic condition coaching. We also have lifestyle management programs.”

It’s also imperative you maintain routine doctor’s visits. If you’re not comfortable heading into the doc right now, take advantage of BCBSAL’s telehealth services.

Looking for more information about diabetes? Log on to the American Diabetes Association’s website at diabetes.org or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.

For more information about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, visit their website. Or, follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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