How to Avoid Getting Diabetes

It’s Diabetes Day today and the perfect opportunity to talk about how we can change our lifestyles to avoid diabetes! Type 2 diabetes is not a contagious disease, but is nevertheless spreading rapidly to a growing number of adults, and has even begun affecting teenagers and children at alarming rates. There are nearly 30 million Americans currently living with diabetes, and about a quarter of these people don’t even know that they have the disease. This is an extremely expensive problem, costing hundreds of billions of dollars in medical spending and reduced productivity annually, with the numbers of affected people and expenses on the rise every year. At this rate, there could be nearly 500 million people living with diabetes globally by the year 2030. About 90% of Americans living with diabetes have type 2 diabetes or Adult Onset Diabetes.

Patient with Diabetes
Diabetes is a serious disease that inhibits the body’s production of insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes causes health problems ranging from blindness and cardiovascular disease to kidney failure. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and blindness in American adults. The direct cause of more than 70,000 deaths per year, and a contributing factor in thousands more, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. However, diabetes exercise treatments are very successful in controlling diabetes with the help of an exercise physiologist.

Though diabetes does cause thousands of deaths every year, and there are even more people at risk of developing the fatal disease, the good news is that it is preventable. Nearly 9 in 10 cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by catching a condition called prediabetes in time, and making simple lifestyle changes.

Prediabetes

A condition called prediabetes exists before diabetes develops, which involves elevated blood sugar that isn’t quite high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes but is estimated to develop into diabetes in a significant percentage of people within a decade.  Nearly a quarter of Americans are estimated to be affected by prediabetes, but unfortunately, a very low number of people affected by prediabetes even know that they are affected. Of those who are aware of their condition and risk factor, less than half try to reduce their risk by changing their diets, losing weight, or exercising more. It’s important to watch for symptoms if you fall into this category.

Though there are some risk factors that can’t be controlled for, like genetics and age, there are still a lot of ways to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By changing just a few of your lifestyle habits, like walking more, sitting less, and quitting smoking, or incorporating healthier food and less sugar into your diet, you can avoid getting diabetes and steer clear of the awful and potentially life-threatening consequences of actually developing the disease. We’ve put together an easy list of habits you can follow and combine to reverse prediabetes and avoid getting type 2 diabetes altogether.

Evaluate Your Risk

Because prediabetes often exists without symptoms – this is partly why so many people are unaware that they are living with the condition – it is important to be screened for prediabetes as well as for your risk of developing diabetes. You can evaluate your risk of developing diabetes by assessing factors like family history, racial or ethnic background, age, or a history of gestational diabetes. All of these factors separately increase your risk of developing diabetes.

Family History

People with a family history of diabetes, or even one blood relative with the disease, are at increased risk of developing the disease. You can fill out a family history tree with your parents and grandparents’ history of diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, or heart attack to help assess your own risk. It is also important to consider racial and ethnic background when evaluating your family history, as people of African-American, Asian-American, Latino/Hispanic-American, Native American or Pacific Islander heritage, are at greater risk of developing diabetes.

Age and Personal History

Your own age and personal history are as much risk factors as family history are. An increasing number of children and teenagers are contracting type 2 diabetes, but older people are still at greater risk. Type 2 diabetes typically affects adults of middle age or older, often after age 45. And if you have a history of gestational diabetes, meaning you developed diabetes during pregnancy, you are also at increased risk.

The above factors are things that cannot be changed or modified to reduce risk. You can’t change your age, heritage, or family background. But these risk factors combined with many other dietary and lifestyle choices are often what make up the perfect storm towards developing type 2 diabetes. You can take a test, like the Life! Risk assessment test, to learn about your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The higher the score, the higher your risk. A score of 12 or more indicates that you are at high risk, which may mean that you’re eligible for the Life! lifestyle modification program to reduce your risk.

Here are some other things you can do to manage your health and reduce your risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Change Your Lifestyle

There are a few lifestyle choices that you can make to avoid developing diabetes, like losing weight (and keeping it off) and exercising.

Lose Weight, And Keep It Lost

Overweight and obese people are at particularly high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, because excess body fat, especially around the abdomen, increases the body’s resistance to insulin. Losing weight is, therefore, an important part of preventing diabetes, but you don’t even have to lose that much weight to significantly reduce your risk. Many experts recommend losing 5 to 10 percent of your current body weight in order to delay diabetes or prevent it altogether. So if you weigh 200 pounds, you only need to lose about 10 or 20 pounds to reduce your risk. It’s also important to keep it off and not gain it back.

Get Some Exercise

Exercise Regularly

There are so many health benefits to getting regular exercise, including and beyond avoiding getting diabetes. You don’t have to be an athlete to avoid diabetes—even just moderate exercise can help you reduce your risk, while simultaneously reducing your blood glucose and improving your cholesterol and blood pressure. Regular exercise even helps manage your mood and has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety.

Exercise reduces your risk of diabetes even when you don’t lose any weight by doing so. There are countless studies that demonstrate the link between exercise and a reduced risk of developing diabetes. One study conducted in Finland found that people who got 35 minutes of exercise a day, or 4 hours a week, reduced their risk of developing diabetes by up to 80 percent, even if they maintained the same weight. And anything is better than nothing when it comes to exercise. The Nurses’ Health Study, for example, found that people who exercised at all more than once a week reduced their risk by 30 percent.

Exercising for just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, is a great and simple way to start. If you are currently completely inactive, talk to your doctor about what kinds of exercise are good for you. You can start slowly and work your way up to your goals. But don’t overthink this: even just a thirty-minute walk counts as exercise—and thirty minutes of walking is a relatively easy habit to incorporate into your daily schedule.

Be a Quitter

Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but did you know that smoking raises your risk of diabetes? Smokers are actually twice as likely to develop diabetes as non-smokers, so if you’re worried about getting diabetes, quitting smoking is a good place to start.

Nicotine raises your blood sugar levels by making your body more resistant to insulin. If you have diabetes or prediabetes, this is like adding fuel to a blood sugar fire that your body just doesn’t need. Smoking also harms your cardiovascular system, adding to your risk of dying from heart disease or stroke. People with diabetes are already two or even four times as likely to die of a stroke or heart disease, so don’t add to this terrible risk. Whether you go cold turkey and put it down all at once, or slowly taper off by reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke per day, quitting smoking is a huge step towards reducing your risk of getting diabetes.

What You Eat Matters

Eat Healthy Foods

In addition to changing what you do with your body, changing what you put in it can help you avoid getting diabetes. Your diet plays a huge part in contributing or reducing your risk of getting diabetes. High fat diets, especially those rich in saturated fats and trans fats, can contribute to your risk. Eating a lot of sugar, salt red meat, and processed food can also add to your risk.

To avoid getting diabetes, reduce the amount of calories you eat and drink every day, which will help you lose weight. Eat plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, especially foods rich in fiber, and try to eat a wide variety of foods from each of these groups. Eating more of these kinds of health foods and less unhealthy food not only reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes, but also reduces your risk of stroke and high blood pressure. Cooking for yourself using whole, fresh ingredients is a great way to avoid processed food, which are high in fat and calories, and eat more of what you already know is good for you.

Watch out for hidden sugar

To avoid sugar, make sure to be aware of hidden sugars listed on the ingredients label. Watch out for anything ending in the suffix “ose” like dextrose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, and of course high fructose corn syrup, as well as molasses, malt syrup, and corn sweetener. The higher on the ingredients list of the package, which is listed by weight, the more sugar there is, so be careful.

High fibre to lower your risk

High-fiber whole grains are the first line of food defense when you want to avoid diabetes. Whole grain cereals are a good source of fiber, but make sure there’s no added sugar, fat, or refined grains. Go for oats and millet, amaranth and quinoa, which are always whole grain, and avoid refined forms of corn, barley, and wheat, because they’re far less healthy than whole alternatives.

Eat your greens (with vinaigrette)

Interestingly enough, one study by Arizona State University found that consuming about 2 tablespoons of vinegar before a high-carb meal helped people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes to keep their blood sugar levels low. This may be because the acetic acid in vinegar slows carbohydrate digestion by inactivating starch-digesting enzymes. This unique effect may even have the same effect as medication like Precose, or acarbose, which is specifically designed to lower blood sugar.  And of course, you don’t have to take vinegar by the tablespoon. Try eating a salad with a vinaigrette dressing before your meal to reap all these amazing benefits and help avoid getting diabetes.

Lower your alcohol intake to lower your risk

And of course, be sure to limit your alcohol intake, which can cause high blood pressure and weight gain, as well as a whole bunch of other physical and psychological health issues. Limiting your alcohol intake to one or two drinks a day will help you avoid diabetes while being healthier overall.

Get your checkups

blood sugar test

Whatever you do, make sure you see your doctor regularly for check ups, especially when you get older. They can help monitor your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, and guide you as you adjust your diet and lifestyle to avoid getting diabetes.

Even—and especially—if you already have prediabetes, or are high on the scale for being at risk of developing diabetes, a few lifestyle changes can go a long way to avoid getting the real thing. Visit your doctor to evaluate your risk, including your family history, and make a few changes in the right direction, starting slowly if you need to. Lose weight, lower your blood sugar, quit smoking. Modify your diet, and drink a bit less. Type 2 diabetes might be dangerous, but it’s avoidable! No matter what your risk factor, doing any and all of these will help you avoid getting type 2 diabetes.

Stay diabetes free! Be kind to your body, and your body will respond with good health. Contact Live Well Rehab for an appointment with an exercise physiologist who will help you manage your diabetes condition.

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