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Lifestyle Changes to Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes

As we grow older, our risk of type 2 diabetes increases. In fact, one in four people in the United States over the age of 60 has diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body does not make enough insulin or use it properly, causing blood glucose levels to be higher than normal. Diabetes can lead to such serious complications as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

While there is no cure for diabetes, the good news is that it can be managed, or even prevented, through lifestyle modifications so that you can live a healthier and longer life. To reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, consider the following helpful tips.

Eat a well-balanced diet. Making healthy food choices is important in helping to keep your blood glucose level under control. Avoid foods that are high in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and salt. Instead, choose foods that are high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. Opting for water instead of soda or juice will also help you manage your blood glucose.

Be physically active. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week. Not only does regular exercise lower your blood glucose, it also helps you maintain your weight, improve blood pressure and cholesterol and lowers your risk for stroke and heart disease.

Get regular screenings. There are tests that can help you and your doctor determine if you are at risk for diabetes or whether your diabetes is under control. An A1C blood test will tell you what your average blood glucose level has been during the past two to three months. Other basic tests that can help with diabetes management include blood pressure, cholesterol, kidney function tests and retinal eye exams.

Create a diabetes care team. In addition to your doctor, it’s also a good idea to create a “diabetes care team” to help you care for your diabetes. Your diabetes care team may include a registered dietician, pharmacist, diabetes educator and a family member or close friend. Your doctor is your best resource if you have any questions or concerns, but remember, your diabetes care team is there to help when you need it, too.

Dr. Marylou Buyse is senior medical director of senior markets for Highmark Inc.

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