Diabetes is considered to be an epidemic in the US for good reason. With more than 29 million people – over 9% of the population – suffering from some form of the disease, and at least 1.4 million new cases of diabetes diagnosed every year, it’s one of the fastest-growing diseases in the nation. And even children are increasingly susceptible to type 2 diabetes – once commonly known as “adult-onset diabetes.”
Today, type 2 diabetes is by far the most common – and most preventable – form of diabetes. Those with this type are unable to effectively use insulin, the hormone created by the pancreas to monitor blood sugar, leading to an abnormal – and potentially life-threatening – rise in blood sugar levels. Over time, this high blood sugar can damage a person’s eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart. Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to prevent this life-altering and potentially deadly disease.
Being overweight is, in itself, the most important risk factor for developing diabetes. If you are overweight, your risk of diabetes is seven times higher than those who are at a healthy weight. For those who are obese, the risk is 20-40 higher that they will develop diabetes. If you are currently overweight and lose just 7-10% of your existing weight, your chances of developing diabetes will be cut in half. Simply reducing your portion sizes by putting less on your plate, skipping seconds, and eating more slowly can have a significant impact over time.
Have a Healthier Diet
What you put into your body can have a significant impact on your overall health and risk of developing diabetes. Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while reducing cured meat and high-fat foods including whole milk, cheese, and fried foods can make a real difference. Cooking with less oil can also help. The type of fats or oil you use matters, too. Polyunsaturated fats are considered to be “good” fats that may actually lower your diabetes risk, while trans fats, known as “bad” fats do just the opposite. Drinking water instead of juice or soda is another way to reduce sugar and calories.
Be More Active
Those who are active for at least 30 minutes a day, five or more times a week also reduce their risk of developing diabetes. Walking, dancing, biking, swimming… it doesn’t matter what form of exercise you choose, as long you practice it regularly. Exercise not only lowers your blood sugar, but it can increase your sensitivity to insulin. As an added bonus, it can help you lose weight – lowering one more diabetes risk factor.
Getting plenty of fiber can improve your body’s control of blood sugar, directly reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. It also helps with weight loss and may lower your risk of heart disease. High-fiber foods to focus on include vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and whole grains. Whole grains in particular have been shown to help maintain proper blood sugar levels, reducing diabetes risk. Diets that are higher in processed carbohydrates, on the other hand, increase your risk level.
Those who smoke may have up to twice the risk of developing diabetes as those who do not smoke. Stopping smoking also offers a host of additional health benefits, including reducing your risk of asthma, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and stroke.
Excessive stress has also been linked to a higher risk of developing diabetes. Simply being more active is one way to reduce stress, as is meditating, practicing yoga or tai chi, reading for pleasure, or simply taking time to relax. Finding ways to reduce your stress level can also make it easier to quit smoking, eat less, and start a healthier lifestyle.