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Better habits for better health

Living a healthier life style can prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes, and it starts with getting educated

Bad habits are hard to change. The trouble with this is that bad habits can lead to bad health, which typically ends up warranting a change in behavior.

Often, the thought of making these changes can be overwhelming, especially when they involve diet and exercise, as they do with the development of diabetes.

“People have this idea that they have to really make a 180-degree turn in what they're doing in order to avoid diabetes,” said Jane Schuster, diabetes program coordinator at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center inPhoto Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - A Legacy diabetes educator shows a patient how to monitor her diabetes. If someone is diagnosed with pre-diabetes, small changes in diet and exercise can lead to big results. Tualatin. “In my experience — I have personal experience as well — we really don't need to make 180-degree changes. We get to make small, really significant changes that have a huge impact on whether we develop diabetes, or pre-diabetes, for that matter.”

Pre-diabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than they should be, but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. Especially if ignored, pre-diabetes often leads to the development of Type 2 diabetes and can even lead to a heart attack or stroke, according to Meridian Park officials. Schuster attributes, in part, a lack of knowledge and accessible education about the disease to why so many people may be on the path to developing it — in 2012, 86 million Americans ages 20 and older had pre-diabetes.

“It's really about better eating habits, getting a little bit of physical activity, and honestly the other piece that no one ever talks about is the emotional aspects of all of this, the mental health aspects of all of this. I think that's a big glaring hole in the picture,” said Schuster. “In my experience, not only professionally, but personally, there's a lot more involved with behavior change than just diet and exercise. We really have to look at the whole person, and not just, 'Don't eat that or you'll get diabetes.' If it were that easy, then that's what we'd be doing.”

Schuster, who was at one point diagnosed with pre-diabetes and has since reversed it, discussed how challenging it can be for someone to change eating habits. Food is emotional, she said, even though people don't tend to think of it as such. So, to be successful in changing habits, it's often necessary to look at why the unhealthy habits exist in the first place.

“It can't be a diet, it's got to be something that's long-term, and that's where the behavior change comes in,” she said. “If we change our behavior, then we change our outcomes.”

But, she stressed these changes don't have to be drastic, they just have to be meaningful and lasting. She mentioned switching from a sugary cereal for breakfast to whole grain oatmeal; it's not a drastic change, but it's enough to make a difference.

“Education is still the most important thing. If people hear it, something might connect with them and make a difference in how they look at what they're eating,” Schuster said. “If somebody really makes some significant changes in their life, it can really impact whether they develop (diabetes) now, later or at all.”

Learn More

What: Pre-Diabetes: Borderline no more; free class about pre-diabetes and lifestyle changes that can help. Pre-registration is required.

When: Tuesday, Nov. 4; 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Where: Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center - Community Health Education Center; 19300 S.W. 65th Ave.

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