Diabetes is a condition that affects over 30 million Americans. When uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to severe complications such as: blindness, kidney failure, and heart disease. Certain risk factors (age, genetics, past behaviors) cannot be changed; however, there are some actions you can take now to reduce your risks in an effort to prevent diabetes.
An individual’s diet may significantly affect diabetes prevention efforts. Sugary, refined carbohydrates are broken down by the body very quickly and rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Over time, these high levels can increase your risk for diabetes. One way to reduce your risk is to replace these with complex carbohydrates and whole grains, such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat bread. The more complex carbs, the longer it takes your body to break them down and result in a slow, steady rise in blood sugar.
Another simple way to aid in diabetes prevention is to increase your fiber intake. Fiber is not only beneficial for gut health and weight loss, but it also helps to keep blood sugar and insulin levels low. Fiber slows the rate at which food and sugars are absorbed, preventing insulin spikes. Fiber-rich foods include bananas, apples, dark vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
Overeating food can also result in high blood sugar and increased insulin levels. One way to combat this common problem is to utilize the ADA Plate Method. This method recommends filling one-half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, carrots, etc.), one-fourth of the plate with grains and starches, and the remaining fourth with protein. Add a serving of fruit and dairy with a low-calorie drink to complete your meal.
Drinking plenty of water is vital to living a healthy lifestyle. Many beverages are high in sugars, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. Although some fruit and vegetable juices may seem healthy, they can be very high in sugar. Try to stick to water, unsweetened teas, and coffee to avoid those hidden sugars.
2. Physical Activity
Exercise increases insulin sensitivity levels, which helps keep blood sugar levels controlled. The CDC recommends adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week for the prevention of diabetes. Although these numbers may seem daunting, it can be broken down to 30 minutes, 5 days per week. Checking with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen is essential. Start small and increase your activity – even walking to the mailbox every day can be an improvement.
3. Weight Control
Excess weight, especially in the midsection, promotes inflammation and insulin resistance, which increases the risk for diabetes. For every kg (2.2 LB) lost, you can decrease your risk for diabetes by up to 16%. However, it is essential to set realistic goals that you can maintain long-term rather than following fad diets. Weight should become better controlled when focused on nutrition and physical activity as previously discussed.
4. Smoking Cessation
Smoking contributes to many severe health conditions, including diabetes. Smoking increases risk by up to 44%. However, good news – it is never too late to quit! After 5 years of smoking cessation, your risk can decrease up to 13% and continues to reduce over time. After 20 years, it will be as if you have never smoked before!
Taking these steps to lead a healthier lifestyle, in addition to getting adequate sleep, reducing stress, and regularly visiting your doctor can help in diabetes prevention, and reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. For more health tips, be sure to subscribe to follow our blog!
Written By: Kristi Hawn, Pharmacist