Diabetes Prevention for Women

Healthy Choices for Healthy Living

By Kristi Shaver, BS, RN, CDE
Inpatient Diabetes Nurse Educator at Upstate Hospital
Joslin Diabetes Center

Diabetes mellitus affects 26 million Americans in the Unites States, of which 12.6 million are women aged 20 years or older. Approximately 79 million people have prediabetes (blood glucose levels above normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes). Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese.

Risk factors for the development of prediabetes and diabetes include obesity, sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, advanced age, a family history of diabetes (especially in a first degree relative), race/ethnicity (African American, Hispanic, Native American), history of gestational diabetes during pregnancy or having a large baby (over 9 pounds), polycystic ovarian disease, acanthosis nigracans, and a history of cardiovascular disease or low HDL-cholesterol or high triglyceride levels.

oor diabetes control is associated with diabetes-related complications, including eye disease, nerve damage and kidney disease. Poorly controlled diabetes can cause difficulties during pregnancy such as a miscarriage or a baby born with birth defects. Women with diabetes are also more likely to have a heart attack, and at a younger age, than women without diabetes. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women with diabetes. Risk of stroke and peripheral vascular disease are high in diabetes.

Symptoms of hyperglycemia include increased thirst and urination, blurry vision, fatigue, and poor wound healing. These symptoms may be absent or unrecognized. For this reason, all adults >age 45 years (or earlier in the presence of additional risk factors) are recommended to have a screening blood test for diabetes. Testing for diabetes is recommended at least every 3 years.

There's good news! You can control many risk factors and reduce your chance of developing diabetes by adopting and maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Take one small step at a time, but make the change today. Pick a reasonable goal and plan to work on it for at least 30 days or more. Give yourself time. Track your progress and celebrate your success by keeping visible signs of your accomplishments. Here are a few ideas of how to make good choices for healthier living:

Healthy Choice #1: Eat Smart
• Eat smaller portions, use smaller plates or cups, avoid sugary drink, limit junk food.

Healthy Choice #2: Get Moving and Keep Moving
• Find an activity you enjoy, take the stairs, walk the dog, just add steps to your day. It is advised to participate in aerobic physical activity for ≥150 min/week

Healthy Choice #3: Lose Weight (if you are overweight or obese)
• Lose 5-7% of your body weight. If you weigh 200#’s you need to lose 15lbs.

Healthy Choice #4: Protect Yourself against Heart Disease
• Don’t smoke, limit alcohol intake, have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked.

Healthy Choice #5: Manage Your Emotions
• Manage stress, know the signs of depression, learn yoga, seek support.

1. Diabetes Basics. (2013). American Diabetes Association.  Retrieved from: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/prevention/risk-factors/
2.American Diabetes Association (ADA). (2013). Clinical practice recommendations. Diabetes Care, 36, S11-­‐S66.
Retrieved from: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/Supplement_1/S11.full.pdf
3. Jones, E. & Appel, S. (2008). Type 2 diabetes: Fueling the surge of cardiovascular disease in women. Nursing for Women’s Health, 12(6), 500-514.