Several people in my family have developed diabetes so I want to stay on the defense in my own life. Stats show that nearly 25% of Americans are thought to have pre-diabetes which means they are living with slightly elevated blood sugar levels that often develops into diabetes within 10 years if they don't change their lifestyle. Of those 25%, only 4% realize that they are at risk of developing diabetes. That being said, I was super excited when I found out that there are simple ways to prevent diabetes. I'm finding that it's much easier for me to take smaller, easy to remember steps towards a healthier life than to try to change everything at once.
Easy Diabetes Prevention Tips:
from Women's Health Magazine.
Sleep: Yes, preventing diabetes can be as easy as getting enough sleep. Long-term sleep deprivation may amp up the body's insulin resistance, especially in people genetically predisposed to diabetes. A preliminary University of Chicago study found that those who regularly snoozed fewer than six hours a night were at the highest risk. Try to get at least seven hours of shut-eye each evening. Another study at Yale University of 1,709 men found that those who regularly got less than 6 hours of sleep doubled their diabetes risk; those who slept more than 8 hours tripled their odds. Previous studies have turned up similar findings in women. "When you sleep too little or too long because of sleep apnea, your nervous system stays on alert," says lead researcher Klar Yaggi, MD, an assistant professor of pulmonary medicine at Yale.
RELAX: Right there with sleep, relaxing will help keep diabetes at bay. Chronic stress is a risk factor for many major diseases, including diabetes. "When your body senses stress, it releases hormones that increase blood sugar," says Colberg-Ochs. That rush is beneficial in a pinch but dangerous long-term. The good news is, simple relaxation exercises and other stress management moves can help you gain control over blood sugar levels, according to a study conducted at Duke University.
Eat Fiber: Fiber isn't just good for digestion, it also curbs post-meal sugar spikes by slowing down the flow of glucose into the bloodstream. So when you crave something sweet, opt for fiber-rich fruit such as raspberries or pears. And consider adding brown rice to your diet: Eating two or more servings a week lowers diabetes risk by 11 percent, says an Archives of Internal Medicine study.
Omega-3s: Here's another great reason to enjoy fish. The omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like oily fish (wild salmon, sardines) can help improve insulin sensitivity. Eat at least one serving of such seafood a week.
Vitamin D: The Sunshine vitamin will also help prevent diabetes. In fact it may be a key factor in the fight against diabetes. A review published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that people with high vitamin-D levels were less likely to develop type 2. Take 1,000 to 2,000 IU a day through dairy foods, fatty fish, or supplements.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon may be an ace at lowering blood sugar levels, says research in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. Rich in nutrients called polyphenols, the sweet spice may help insulin do its job more effectively. Sprinkle some into your morning joe or mix it into an oatmeal snack. German researchers studied 65 adults with type 2 diabetes who then took a capsule containing the equivalent of 1 g of cinnamon powder or a placebo 3 times a day for 4 months. By the end, cinnamon reduced blood sugar by about 10%; the placebo users improved by only 4%. Why? Compounds in cinnamon may activate enzymes that stimulate insulin receptors. The sweet spice has also been shown to help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, blood fats that may contribute to diabetes risk.
Lose a Little: Shedding even 10 pounds can significantly slash your risk. Even extremely overweight people were 70% less likely to develop diabetes when they lost just 5% of their weight—even if they didn't exercise. If you weigh 175 pounds, that’s a little less than 9 pounds! Use a calorie calculator to see how many calories you consume and how many you need to shave off your diet—if you want to lose a little.
Choose a Better Appetizer: Try a salad. Eating greens with a vinaigrette before a starchy entrée may help control your blood sugar levels. In an Arizona State University study, people with type 2 diabetes or a precursor condition called insulin resistance had lower blood sugar levels if they consumed about 2 tablespoons of vinegar just before a high-carb meal. "Vinegar contains acetic acid, which may inactivate certain starch-digesting enzymes, slowing carbohydrate digestion," says lead researcher Carol Johnston, PhD. In fact, vinegar’s effects may be similar to those of the blood sugar—lowering medication acarbose (Precose).
Walk: Walk as much as you can every day. You'll be healthier even if you don't lose any weight. People in a Finnish study who exercised the most—up to 4 hours a week, or about 35 minutes a day, dropped their risk of diabetes by 80%, even if they didn’t lose any weight. This pattern holds up in study after study: The famed Nurses' Health Study, for example, found that women who worked up a sweat more than once a week reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 30%. And Chinese researchers determined that people with high blood sugar who engaged in moderate exercise (and made other lifestyle changes) were 40% less likely to develop full-blown diabetes. Why is walking so wonderful? Studies show that exercise helps your body utilize the hormone insulin more efficiently by increasing the number of insulin receptors on your cells. Insulin helps blood sugar move into cells, where it needs to go to provide energy and nutrition. Otherwise it just sloshes around in your bloodstream, gumming up blood vessel walls and eventually causing serious health problems.
Drink Coffee: Love this one. After they studied 126,210 women and men, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that big-time coffee drinkers—those who downed more than 6 daily cups—had a 29 to 54% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes during the 18-year study. Sipping 4 to 5 cups cut risk about 29%; 1 to 3 cups per day had little effect. Decaf coffee offered no protection. Caffeine in other forms (tea, soda, chocolate) did. Researchers suspect that caffeine may help by boosting metabolism. And coffee, the major caffeine source in the study, also contains potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants that help cells absorb sugar. But before you become a VIP at Dunkin Donuts, remember that a medium chain-store cuppa is about 14 to 16 ounces—that's 2 "cups" by standard measures.
Avoid the Drive-thru: That's what University of Minnesota scientists found after they studied 3,000 people, ages 18-30, for 15 years. At the start, everyone was at a normal weight. But those who ate fast food more than twice a week gained 10 more pounds and developed twice the rate of insulin resistance (the two major risk factors for type 2 diabetes) compared with those who indulged less than once a week.
Veg Out: Eat veggies more often than not, and consider red meat a treat and not for every day. Women who ate red meat at least 5 times a week had a 29% higher risk of type 2 diabetes than those who ate it less than once a week according to a 37,000-woman study at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Eating processed meats such as bacon and hot dogs at least 5 times a week raised type 2 diabetes risk by 43%, compared with eating them less than once a week.
Hang Out: Women who live alone are 2.5 times more likely to develop diabetes than women who live with a spouse, roommate, or children, according to a study published in Diabetes Care. Researchers examined what role household status played in the progression of impaired glucose tolerance to diabetes among 461 women, ages 50 to 64, and found higher risk among women living alone. But don't freak out if you live solo: Lifestyle factors could explain this finding. Women who lived alone were also more likely to smoke and less likely to have healthy dietary habits. The solution would be to make sure you are spending time with friends and/or family who will help keep you make healthier choices.