Patient Education: Diabetes, Prevention

Young, Smart, Attractive, DIABETIC?
Why college students should care about diabetes
— and how to prevent it

Tell me what diabetes is and what it has to do with me.

Diabetes means that your blood glucose (sugar) is too high. The health choices you make as a college student can determine whether or not you will have to deal with serious complications — such as blindness, nerve damage and heart disease — that can come with having diabetes.

But no one in my family has ever had it!

Did you know that you can develop type 2 diabetes without having any genetic predisposition to it? Recent studies show more and more college-age students starting their after-college lives with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes as a result of poor diet and/or physical fitness while at school.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes/prediabetes include:

  • High Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Little or no physical activity
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Race/ethnicity (African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander)

Prediabetes? Never heard of it.

Prediabetes means your blood glucose is higher than normal but lower than the diabetes range. It also means you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes; however, you can reduce your risk of getting diabetes and even return to normal blood glucose levels with modest weight loss and moderate physical activity.

How would I know if I have diabetes?

Some signs of diabetes include being very thirsty or hungry, feeling very tired, blurry vision, tingling in the hands or feet, and sores that are slow to heal.

But I don’t feel sick, and my weight is totally fine. Skinny is good, right?

Skinny does not always equal healthy. While the association between having a high BMI and diabetes or prediabetes is well-established, weight alone is not the only thing that can put you at risk. Big “skinny-fat” risk factors for diabetes? Neglecting exercise, regulating weight through food choices alone, yo-yo dieting and chronic stress.

I think I get it! Now, what can I do to prevent diabetes?

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Lose weight if your BMI is greater than 25.
  • Exercise regularly. Go with friends, take a dance class, relax with yoga… Find something you like so you’ll stick with it. Recent studies show that upping your lean muscle mass may lower your odds of developing prediabetes.
  • Choose lean and low-fat foods.
    • Eat unprocessed, high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits and veggies.
    • Bake, broil or grill lean meats.
    • Use fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt.
    • Eat as little added sugar as possible each day.
    • Use less fat and/or oil when cooking and baking.
  • Eat healthy, moderate amounts.
    • Watch your portion sizes, especially when eating out.
    • Make your meals last at least 20 minutes.
    • Add satisfying, protein-rich foods to all meals and snacks.
    • Divide your plate in half and fill one side with veggies.

Where can I find more information?