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Deb Vynalek, owner of the Core Club & 24/7 Gym in Durham, uses disinfectant on dumbbells while Patron Nathan Trucks of Guilford works out at the health club shortly after it reopens. The club was closed for three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Connecticut was one of the states with the highest percentage of vaccinated populations, Connecticut was also one of the slower states to lift restrictions and open certain facilities to full capacity. The unintended consequences of a slow reopening include less access to gym / sports facilities and reluctance to attend health visits in person. The months of restriction at home can also lead to deterioration in mental health, which can lead some to turn to comfort food, overeating, and inactivity.

Stephanie Watson

However, now that the state of Connecticut has mostly reopened and summer weather has arrived, residents should have more access to indoor and outdoor areas to get around. Residents can also find several local farmers markets or safely visit berry pickers to start a post-pandemic diet overhaul. As a Medical Assistant and Nutrition Fellow of the PA Foundation, I encourage you to make a few simple changes that can have a huge impact on your current and future health.

Changes like increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet and reducing processed snacks and high-carb meals can help prevent diseases like type 2 diabetes, one of the most common health problems Americans face today. In fact, in 2018, 13% of all adults in the US had diabetes; in adults over 65 years of age it was 27% (CDC National Diabetes Statistics Report 2020).

Diabetes is a condition in which your body cannot use glucose (sugar) properly. Insulin is a hormone made by your body’s pancreas that helps move glucose into cells so it can be used for energy. In type 2 diabetes, insulin is not made or used properly by the body due to a variety of factors. Complications of type 2 diabetes, especially when poorly controlled, include an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, poor wound healing, and damage to the eyes and kidneys.

If your doctor thinks you are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, changes can be made right away to help prevent type 2 diabetes and its associated health complications. For example, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, losing as little as 7% of your body weight can help. Moderate exercise (like the brisk walk mentioned earlier) for 30 minutes five days a week can also help. Regular checkups with your doctor are also needed, as many people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes do not know they have them.

While thinking about health concerns like type 2 diabetes may not have been the focus of surviving the COVID pandemic for the past year and a half, many people spent 2020 and 2021 reassessing their long-term goals and priorities. Optimizing our diet is a great way to ensure that we are sufficiently healthy and happy to meet these goals for years to come.

Stephanie Watson is a Hartford Medical Assistant.

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