Diabetes-proof for Life
Reduce your risk with simple lifestyle changes
Diabetes is a problem that isn’t going away. Nearly 2 million adults over the age of 20 were diagnosed with diabetes in 2010, but the number of new cases could soon explode: The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) estimates that 79 million American adults have pre-diabetes, defined by above-normal blood sugar levels. That’s 35 percent of adults 20 and older, and half of adults 65 and older.
Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S. and a major cause of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and blindness, so a diagnosis of prediabetes is serious. Without dietary and lifestyle changes, pre-diabetes will nearly always progress to diabetes..
The good news: Your diabetes fate is in your hands. Shifting your daily habits can reduce the need for diabetes medication and even prevent diabetes entirely. Lifestyle changes are just as effective as, if not more effective than, any medicine you can take.
These eight simple switches should help you stay diabetes free, for life.
Lose a few
Weight loss is the number-one way to reduce diabetes risk, according to the NDIC. Shedding even a few pounds is beneficial; multiple studies show that a modest weight loss of 10 percent can have a measurable impact on diabetes risk factors. In one study, overweight individuals who lost around 20 pounds cut their diabetes risk by a third. That’s very doable for most people.
Treat sleep problems
High-quality sleep is an important factor in the fight against diabetes. A study published in Diabetes Care found that poor sleep is strongly linked to insulin resistance, and that diabetics who sleep poorly have a harder time controlling the disease. To keep diabetes at bay, see your doctor if you experience insomnia or excessive daytime fatigue for longer than one month.
Exercise burns calories and lowers blood sugar, but you don’t need to spend all day at the gym to reap benefits. According to multiple studies, a mere 150 minutes per week of exercise can delay or prevent diabetes. Expert advises inactive patients to begin
with 15 minutes of walking per day. The first step out the door is the hardest. To make the biggest dent in blood sugar levels, schedule workouts about an hour and a half after your largest meal of the day.
Enjoy your daily grind
A daily cup of joe (or several) can help in the battle against diabetes. Scientists and doctors have long believed that coffee helps protect against diabetes. Now, studies have shown that coffee consumption increases plasma levels of a protective hormone called SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin). Studies also show that the protective effect disappears with decaf—so for diabetes prevention, drink your coffee full force.
Do the D
New research suggests that healthy vitamin D levels are important to diabetes prevention. In one study, individuals with high
vitamin D levels were 38 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those with low levels. Though vitamin D is found in foods (such as eggs and fortified milk), it’s difficult to get enough from food alone. Have your healthcare provider check your vitamin D levels, and ask about supplementation, if needed.
Spice it up
Cinnamon is more than a spice-cabinet standby; multiple studies have shown that it reduces blood sugar. Cinnamon offers a triple
play of defensive measures against high blood sugar: It slows the emptying of the stomach after eating, improves the effectiveness of insulin and has antioxidant properties.
Nix the nibbling
Take a bite out of your diabetes risk by cutting out mindless nibbling. A single bite of food has around 20 to 25 calories, and the impact of 20 extra calories per day over 20 years is more than 40 extra pounds of body fat. We all know people who gain 40 pounds between the age of 30 and 50. To stay slim and diabetes free, don’t sample food while it cooks and strive to eat only at the table.
Make friends with fiber
The New England Journal of Medicine reports that a high intake of fiber, particularly soluble fiber, helps control diabetes symptoms. Fiber is listed as a carbohydrate on nutrition labels, but it doesn’t affect blood sugar the way that other carbohydrates do. And because it helps you fill up, you’re less likely to overeat. Aim for 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day, and avoid low-fiber “white” carbohydrates such as white pasta, white bread and white rice. A diagnosis of pre-diabetes is a warning sign, not a life sentence. When you embrace the opportunity to make lifestyle changes, you take charge of your health and lay claim to a diabetes-free future.