Did your diet or exercise routine change (or disappear) during the stay-at-home order?
Now’s the time to get back on track.
With the state slowly reopening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time to get back to your family’s healthcare needs. While the last few months have been stressful, it is important to now lose any not-so-healthy coping mechanisms. These new behaviors could increase your risk for a common, yet largely preventable disease: type 2 diabetes.
According to data compiled by the United Health Foundation, 14% of adults in Louisiana had type 2 diabetes in 2019. “While much of our population is at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes because of factors like obesity and genetics, that risk can be managed through weight loss and leading a healthy lifestyle—eating nutrient-dense foods and exercising regularly,” says Dr. P. Bradley Fossier, a practicing physician at St. Francis Primary Care, located on the West Feliciana Hospital campus.
Of course, it’s probably not news to you that maintaining a balanced diet and regular physical activity is good for your health—the hard part is figuring out where to start. To implement those healthier habits without giving up a few days in, follow these three rules of thumb:
1. Know your risk.
It’s important to know your medical history because you’re at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes if the disease runs in your family, or if you have other preexisting conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease. Other factors, such as your age and race, can also place you at higher risk. So be aware of the symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes. Signs include increased thirst, frequent urination, excess hunger, fatigue, and blurred vision, to name a few. By first knowing what to look for, you can ensure that you can get on the right course of action as early as possible. Getting a blood glucose screening—in the instance that you or a family member exhibits symptoms—is a good example.
2. However you can, get moving.
It’s true that you’re more likely to be insulin resistant if you are overweight and lead a sedentary lifestyle. But you don’t have to become a CrossFit athlete to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, either. Implementing small changes, like going for a daily walk, playing with the kids, or just moving around more—especially if you work from home—can make all the difference. The goal is to be active for 20 minutes each day. You can even break those 20 minutes into smaller segments if that’s more manageable. Taking dance breaks throughout the workday is one idea. Or, you can use the time to decompress at the end of the day. Catching up on a favorite podcast while you walk the dog might be enjoyable. Establishing a fitness routine that works for you is all about setting realistic expectations and working with where you’re at. That’s where progress happens.
3. Eat a balanced diet.
Eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, while avoiding sugary snacks and drinks, is the single best thing you can do to lower your risk factor. That’s easier said than done in a state known for delicious (and calorie-dense) Cajun and Creole cuisine, but integrating small switches that you will actually stick to is the key to building consistency. For example, if you normally drink two sodas a day you’re more likely to succeed in replacing soda with water gradually. Think about it this way: drinking just one Coke a day instead of two, or switching to Diet Coke, is an easier first step than trying to convince yourself that water doesn’t taste all that different. Once you meet the first goal move on to the next, like replacing soda with flavored or sparkling water. Seemingly impossible goals like eliminating soda become more achievable once you break them into smaller steps. Even better, you lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes while you’re at it.