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Public Health Nurse's View: Take action today to live healthier tomorrow

There's so much focus at the beginning of the year on healthy eating and losing weight. But now March is coming to an end, and New Year's resolutions have faded for most.

There's so much focus at the beginning of the year on healthy eating and losing weight. But now March is coming to an end, and New Year's resolutions have faded for most.

Maybe that was part of the logic in naming March as National Nutrition Month. It's a great time to hit the reset button and focus attention again on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical-activity habits.

These are messages St. Louis County Public Health emphasizes year-round. We work to help everyone in our community make practical food and lifestyle choices to help them be their healthiest all year long.

Among our key initiatives is preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes and its life-altering consequences. One in three American adults now have prediabetes, meaning they are at an increased risk of developing the disease. A full 90 percent of them don't know it.

With diabetes a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., a key area of focus for us is to stop type 2 diabetes in its tracks through the Diabetes Prevention Program. National Nutrition Month is a perfect time to commit to losing even a modest amount of weight, which can lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels and contribute to creating a mindset to stay committed to healthier eating and exercise routines.

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Diabetes Prevention Program research shows that a weight loss of just 5 percent to 7 percent of body weight (about 15 pounds for most people) reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent in people at high risk for the disease. Even after 10 years, those who participated in the lifestyle-changing program had a 34 percent lower rate of type 2 diabetes.

Whether it's starting the day off right with a nutritious breakfast or fueling up with wholesome meals and snacks throughout the day, the foods we choose make a real difference.

That's why this year's theme for National Nutrition Month is "Go Further with Food." We've all been taught to plan ahead and include multiple food groups in our meals each day. But here are some other tips: Think about what food you already have at home before you buy more. Buy only what you can eat or freeze in a few days, and include leftovers in your meal plan. And pay attention to portion size.

These practices not only speak to the numerous benefits of healthy eating habits, but also help us cut back on food waste. Combine that with finding a fun and engaging exercise routine, and you have a recipe for success.

We with the St. Louis County Public Health Department strive to help our community members take steps today toward living healthier tomorrow. If you'd like to learn more about good nutrition tips, preventing diabetes, or Diabetes Prevention Program classes, call the county health department at (218) 726-2521

Jennifer Collard is a public health nurse for St. Louis County.

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