“Women and Diabetes” is the theme for World Diabetes Day this year and it is highly appropriate because women are taking the lead when it comes to the prevalence of type 2 diabetes.
Given that various lifestyle factors contribute to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the prevention of diabetes must be taken seriously and should start at a young age. In general, the prevention of disease and loss of quality of life should be seen as primary health goals.
Risk factors for diabetes, unique to women, include Polycystic Ovaries and Gestational Diabetes. Preventing or managing these conditions is an important measure to reduce the incidence of diabetes.
Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:
- overweight or obesity prior to pregnancy
- excessive weight gain during pregnancy
- a family history of diabetes
- 25 years of age and older
- previous gestational diabetes, stillbirth or miscarriage, or delivery of a large baby
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- insulin resistance
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- heart disease
When trying to conceive, it is important to eat healthily, exercise and maintain good hydration. Falling pregnant at a healthy weight will reduce risk of complications in general. Having established a healthy eating routine prior to pregnancy will make it easier to maintain healthy habits and appropriate weight gain. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy increases the risk of obesity post pregnancy, which in turn increases the risk for diabetes.
Aside from medical factors, women specifically, tend to compromise their health while looking after others. And while it may seem a necessary sacrifice at the time, the long term consequences are not worth the neglect of self health. There are many habits that women fall into when taking caring of their families that can ultimately contribute to the development of diabetes later in life. While it may seem difficult to achieve a healthy lifestyle, the long term complications associated with uncontrolled diabetes are debilitating, resulting in a loss of highly valued independence. This makes the effort both necessary and worthwhile.
Regardless of a woman’s roles, schedule or stress level, the tendency to skip meals, grab quick snacks, do insufficient physical inactivity is common to many a woman. Family support is an important part of the prevention of diabetes.
5 easy ways to prevent the development of diabetes
1.Eat breakfast with the family
Many women feed their families breakfast but do not eat breakfast themselves. Reduce the morning rush by setting the breakfast table the night before. Healthy eating behaviour is established by eating as many meals together as a family as possible. Children ultimately follow by example, no matter if you force them to eat healthily for now.
2. Get enough fibre
Achieving the required 30 grams of dietary fibre is only possible if high fibre foods are included at all meals and snacks. Snack on fruit rather than biscuits and popcorn rather than crisps. Prepare vegetables every evening, even if you children do not enjoy them.
3. Do not wait until you are too hungry to prepare a quick meal or snack
When you allow yourself to get too hungry, you will make poor food choices in effort to achieve a quick fix. Sticking to a routine allows you time to throw together a healthy sandwich or chop up a salad or peel a fruit. It does not take long to prepare a healthy lunch or snack.
4. Make one family meal
Children should not have control of the dinner menu. The only choice children should have is how much of the meal they are going to eat. This helps children to self regulate their energy intake, which is a natural ability until it is removed by forced feeding. Children should not have room to manipulate parents regarding food. If they come back hungry after and unfinished dinner, offer the same food.
In general, do not feed your kids food you would not eat for health reasons and do not eat food you would not be happy for your child to eat. It is a good rule of thumb to follow.
5. Make time for family physical activity
Time may prevent exercise it should never be neglected entirely. Make good use of weekends for planned physical activity. The whole family benefits from exercise and therefore family exercise is an ideal way to help everyone to reach their activity goals. Fun ways to exercise as a family include hiking, bike riding, walking the dogs, gardening, beach frisbee, swimming and tennis.
Women should take up the fight because it is a matter of urgency for every family. Adopting these 5 principles will not only reduce the risk of diabetes in women because the rest of the family will be protected too. Prevention is the best defense against diabetes.