Today, more than 37 million people in the United States have Diabetes, and 96 million adults have prediabetes (a condition where blood sugar levels are high but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes). This is not a disease that is particular to the elderly population- we are seeing more and more young adults and even children developing this condition. As this disease is seemingly on the rise, we begin to ask ourselves: how can we lower our risk of developing diabetes? The good news is that prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are largely preventable, in fact, 9 in 10 cases can be avoided simply by making some lifestyle changes. Here are some actions you can take to reduce your risk!
Cut Processed Sugar & Refined Carbs from Your Diet
Medical experts suggest that one of the leading causes of diabetes is a diet high in processed foods and sugar, which can be found in pre-packaged snack foods and soft drinks. These foods increase blood sugar and insulin levels, which can increase your risk for diabetes. There are simple diet-swaps that are easy to make, such as drinking more water instead of soda, whole/sprouted grains rather than highly-processed carbohydrates and eating lean protein instead of processed meat. Click here to read our article about 7 Foods That Regulate Your Blood Sugar.
Being at a healthy weight reduces your risk for diabetes, so ensuring at least 30 minutes of movement a day is important for overall health. This can include walking, swimming, dancing, biking, lifting weights, etc. Studies suggest that even a brisk walk for 30 minutes each day reduces the risk for type 2 diabetes by 30%. Not only does regular exercise prevent diabetes, but it is also important for preventing other diseases such as heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions.
Cut Tobacco and Alcohol
This may seem like an obvious solution for overall wellness, but both tobacco and alcohol have been shown to contribute to insulin resistance. Those who smoke have a nearly 50% higher chance of developing diabetes, and you can add that to the long list of health problems associated with tobacco use. Small amounts of alcohol are acceptable, but should not be consumed regularly or in large quantities. Alcohols like beer, wine and flavored liquors have a particularly high sugar content and should be avoided entirely if you are prediabetic or diabetic.
Build a Better Plate
Multiple studies have shown that eating smaller meals throughout the day is better for the body than eating larger meals less frequently. Large meals can be burdensome on the body and can be more difficult to digest, whereas small meals and snacks help us feel full but do not cause the dramatic spike in blood sugar and insulin. When structuring your plate for a meal, it is important to include adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, quality protein and whole/sprouted grains.
It is also important to note that certain foods should be paired together to avoid blood sugar spikes- for example, carbohydrates should always be paired with a protein source. When you eat a carbohydrate on its own, such as a piece of fruit, your body will quickly break that down into sugar, therefor naturally increasing your insulin levels. Proteins take longer to digest, so pairing the two together helps slow down digestion to avoid spikes and crashes in blood sugar. For example, if you eat an apple, have a little peanut butter with it; if you eat cottage cheese, have some jam or fruit as well.
See Your Medical Provider Regularly
Although there’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, it is possible to prevent it. In addition to making these lifestyle changes, seeing your doctor at least once a year can help you keep track of your health. Regular check-ups and lab work can help identify your blood sugar levels so that you can develop a plan for delaying the onset of diabetes and other health conditions