Diabetes is a hot topic these days. With over 29 million diagnosed Americans, it’s easy to see why. In this statistic, nearly 95% have type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease that can cause life-long problems. Adding to the number, another 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed each year.
To avoid being one of these many people, focus on your lifestyle. Everyday habits have an enormous impact on diabetes risk. Genes play a part but lifestyle matters so much more because preventing type 2 diabetes is possible. Here’s how it develops, and what you can do about it.1
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes, or “adult onset” diabetes, is a metabolic disease. It’s defined by high blood glucose, also known as hyperglycemia. When you eat sugar, the pancreas releases insulin. This hormone helps cells absorb glucose so that blood glucose levels stay in check. But when you eat too much, insulin metabolism gets thrown for a loop!
Blood glucose also accumulates and causes a host of problems. The disease develops over time, so it can be really sneaky. Reducing your risk is one of the best things you can do.2
How To Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
1. Increase Fiber Intake
Fiber is a “good” carb that improves insulin and lowers blood glucose. In fact, low-fiber diets have a strong association with type 2 diabetes. It’s the perfect reason to eat more fiber.3
Up your intake of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Most Americans only get 15 gm of fiber a day, even though the recommended quantity is 20 to 30 gm. Increase the intake slowly to avoid constipation! Fiber absorbs water, so be sure to drink up.4
2. Avoid Refined Grains
Refined grains are the worst for type 2 diabetes. They’re high-glycemic foods, meaning that they cause a fast spike in blood glucose. Your pancreas won’t be too happy.5
Steer clear of refined grains like white rice, bread, and pasta. Eat fiber-rich whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, oats, and barley. These foods increase satiety, so you’ll be less likely to grab a donut on the way home from work.
3. Maintain A Healthy Weight
Beyond regulating blood glucose, all of these tips will aid in weight control. And this bonus is yet another way to ward off diabetes. Even a 5–7% weight loss makes a huge difference.6
When you eat, aim to reduce caloric intake by choosing low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods. Prepare smaller portions and make small swaps. For example, replace sugary bottled fruit juice with infused water and tea.
4. Exercise More
Weight management depends on diet and exercise. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 days a week. Just starting? Work out for 10 minutes, once or twice a week.7
You don’t need to run a marathon. Brisk walking, jogging, or a dance class all count as physical activity. Hike with a friend or play with the dog. Start small. Find the tiniest of chances to work out, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
5. Quit Smoking
Smoking increases your risk for type 2 diabetes by 30–40%. Of course, the risk increases with the number of cigarettes. It’s even worse this habit combines with a lack of exercise and a bad diet.
If you develop type 2 diabetes, smoking makes it hard to control. The chances of other complications, like heart disease and blindness, are also higher. These conditions are more aggressive in smokers.8
When you quit, the risk for type 2 diabetes is only slightly higher than non-smokers. It proves how powerful smoking cessation can be.9
6. Drink Alcohol In Moderation
In moderation, alcohol intake isn’t harmful. This counts as 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. It might even aid in diabetes prevention.10 But anything more is a problem. When you drink too much, the body has a hard time regulating blood glucose. Frequent drinkers are also more likely to smoke and eat poorly.11 12
7. Control Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is hard on the heart, but it doesn’t end there. It also increases your risk for diabetes and co-existing problems. About 2 in 3 diabetics have high blood pressure, so pay attention. Like diabetes, high blood pressure happens quietly. Your doctor will check it during regular visits. Regulated blood pressure is vital, just like height and weight.
Eating to prevent diabetes will also help blood pressure. Again, this calls for whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid processed, salty foods and always check food labels. To boost flavor, replace salt with herbs and spices. Drink alcohol in moderation, lose weight, and quit smoking to manage blood pressure.13
Type 2 diabetes is preventable – and it all depends on you. Adopt these habits and lead a life of moderation. Follow a healthy lifestyle to keep diabetes at bay.
|↑1||Infographics. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑2||Type 2 Diabetes: Overview. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑3, ↑5, ↑11||Wu, Yanling, Yanping Ding, Yoshimasa Tanaka, and Wen Zhang. “Risk factors contributing to type 2 diabetes and recent advances in the treatment and prevention.” International journal of medical sciences 11, no. 11 (2014): 1185.|
|↑4||Fiber. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑6||Preventing Type 2 Diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑7||Physical Activity for Healthy Weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑8||Smoking and Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑9||Al-Delaimy, Wael K., Walter C. Willett, JoAnn E. Manson, Frank E. Speizer, and Frank B. Hu. “Smoking and mortality among women with type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes care 24, no. 12 (2001): 2043-2048.|
|↑10||Baliunas, Dolly O., Benjamin J. Taylor, Hyacinth Irving, Michael Roerecke, Jayadeep Patra, Satya Mohapatra, and Jürgen Rehm. “Alcohol as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes care 32, no. 11 (2009): 2123-2132.|
|↑12||Cullmann, M., A. Hilding, and C‐G. Östenson. “Alcohol consumption and risk of pre‐diabetes and type 2 diabetes development in a Swedish population.” Diabetic Medicine 29, no. 4 (2012): 441-452.|
|↑13||High Blood Pressure. American Diabetes Association.|