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Jamie Joyner, RD, LD, HFS, St. Luke's Hospital

A healthy lifestyle is the key to preventing and managing Type 2 diabetes

According to the newest data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. The most common form of diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, is a condition in which the body produces less insulin (the hormone that helps to control blood sugar) or your body becomes less sensitive to insulin. Diabetes can also lead to heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, which are three of the other leading causes of death.

Almost half of the 25.6 million Americans with diabetes are women. Studies show women with Type 2 diabetes that are going through menopause may have to work harder to control blood sugar levels as they are impacted by lower estrogen levels and changes in sleep patterns. In addition, although both men and women with Type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for developing infections due to higher blood sugar levels, certain infections are more common for women such as urinary tract infections.

Unlike some of the other leading causes of death, Type 2 diabetes can often be successfully managed through healthy lifestyle changes. By modifying portions of carbohydrates consumed, becoming more physically active and losing weight, individuals with diabetes can improve their health outcomes and have a better quality of life.

However, the American culture makes it difficult to make healthy nutritional changes, and for some, these lifestyle changes may be easier said than done. Portion sizes have become so out of control in this country, that what most Americans would consider a normal portion of food is actually enough for two or three people. Americans often become focused on getting more food for their money, when really we should focus on smaller portions of better quality foods.

Healthy lifestyles are not only a great way to manage Type 2 diabetes, but they are also a great way to prevent diabetes and other health conditions. It is never too late to improve your nutrition habits and overall lifestyle. Whether you have been diagnosed with diabetes or you are looking to start a healthier lifestyle to prevent developing diabetes, registered dietitians can be a great resource for providing nutritional advice.

Jamie Joyner, RD, LD, HFS, is a registered and licensed dietitian and an ACSM Certified Health Fitness Specialist for St. Luke's Hospital. Call 314-442-3238 or visit the Nutrition Wellness Center page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on March 22, 2012.