Many of the risk factors of getting diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, are similar to men. However, there are some instances whereas a woman, you might have some different risk factors. By knowing these risks, you have a good chance at avoiding diabetes, particularly with type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
The first type of diabetes you can get as a woman is type 1 diabetes. This is different than type 2 diabetes, therefore its risk factors and complications also tend to be different. Type 1 diabetes is the one you get most often as a child and were probably born with. This type of diabetes occurs when your pancreas doesn’t create enough insulin in your body. With this type of diabetes, you might have a family history of the disease, infections of your pancreas at a young age, or possibly other diseases of your pancreas that increased your risk.
Type 2 Diabetes
The next type of diabetes, which is the most common form, is type 2 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, you have too much sugar in your blood. It is sometimes called having insulin resistance. This is the type of diabetes that has more risk factors and that you can get at any age. There is definitely a higher risk if diabetes runs in your family, you are born insulin resistant, or you are overweight. Other risk factors for this form of diabetes include having a glucose intolerance, following a high-sugar diet, or having an ethnic background. It does tend to be more common with women who are African American, Hispanic, or Native American, though anyone can get it. If you have PCOS or are over 45 years old, you are also at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
The final type of diabetes you might get if you are a woman is gestational diabetes. This type of diabetes also causes an increase of blood glucose levels, except it only occurs during pregnancy. You may not have diabetes before or after your pregnancy, but will need to monitor your diabetes during your pregnancy for the health of you and your baby. Some risk factors for gestational diabetes include being older when you get pregnant, having a family history of diabetes, being overweight, and having high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Make sure you have your blood glucose monitored by a doctor if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
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I wanted to talk about this topic because it is absolutely possible to prevent and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes (but you cannot reverse Type 1). Yes, it’s possible! and emerging studies looking at lifestyle medicine and prevention support this! But I always tell my patients that you must be dedicated and diligent in adopting a healthy lifestyle to get the best results. You can create certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, to help break the cycle of this chronic disease so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve your blood sugar levels, maybe reverse type 2 diabetes. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy.
Tools For Diabetes Prevention and Monitoring
Blood Sugar Monitoring
As you know, I always stress the importance of taking control of your health. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to do this. To do this, a single drop of blood is collected with disposable lancets and placed on a disposable test strip, which you insert into a home blood-sugar monitoring device, called a glucometer.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up (fasting), before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime; however, you should check your blood sugar as many times a day as your health care team suggests.
Monitoring your blood sugar level provides you and your doctors with important knowledge about how food, activity, medication, stress, and other elements might affect your blood sugar levels. This data will assist you and your doctor in developing a therapy plan that is suited to your demands.
There are several types of blood glucose meters, lancets, and test strips to choose from. I often recommend this glucometer, lancets, and test strips.
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity actually improves insulin sensitivity. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Here are some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Another alternative for dumbbells/free weights are resistance bands. They are great for physical therapy, yoga, strength training, and excellent for traveling:
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet and regular physical activity are the best ways to prevent diabetes. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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