The topic of diabetes prevention is becoming more and more relevant today, as not just North America but the entire world is experiencing diabetes diagnoses in epidemic proportions.
When we talk about preventing diabetes, we are really talking about Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a very different disease and research has yet to discover how to prevent it.
Type 2 diabetes on the other hand is a metabolic disorder, where the body is no longer metabolizing carbohydrates properly.
It is a chronic disease that, over time, can affect several organs in your body and lead to the development of complications such as heart disease, blindness and loss of limbs.
Although there is certainly a genetic component to type II diabetes, and you are at higher risk if close members of your family have developed it, diabetes type two most often develops due to lifestyle factors that are prevalent over several years.
If lifestyle factors increase the risk of developing the disease, it makes sense that prevention of diabetes is possible. If you are overweight, lead a very sedentary lifestyle with little exercise, have a family history of diabetes or you are already pre diabetic, you may seriously want to read on.
Diabetes prevention begins with lifestyle changes and beginning to incorporate more healthy habits into your life. Taking small steps in the direction of any of these areas can make a big difference in your health and put you at a much lower risk of developing this disease.
The American Diabetes Association states that the risk factors for pre-diabetes and diabetes include the following:
- being overweight or obese
- being 45 years of age or older
- being physically inactive
- having a parent, brother, or sister who has or had (deceased) diabetes
- giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- being diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy
- having high blood pressure – 140/90 mmHg or above, or being treated for high blood pressure
- having HDL, or “good,” cholesterol below 35 mg/dL, or a triglyceride level above 250 mg/dL
- having polycystic ovary syndrome
- having impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance on testing
- having a history of cardiovascular disease
- having a particular family background makes you more susceptible including being African American/Canadian, Northern Native, Native Indian, Hispanic/Latino, or a Pacific Islander
Diabetes Prevention Through Healthy Eating
Eating healthy is extremely important in diabetes prevention. It is one of the most important things you can do to prevent this chronic disease, especially if you are genetically predisposed.
Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and sugar, is a path to the development of diabetes. Instead, consume whole grain foods like oats, whole wheat pasta, whole grain couscous and brown rice. The higher fiber content of these foods causes the “sugar” from them to be released more slowly into your body.
Prevention of diabetes involves eating lots of fruits and vegetables, especially low starch vegetables like salad ingredients, green and yellow beans, cabbage, broccoli, spinach and onions.
Fruits that are low in sugars like berries, cherries and peaches are wonderful foods to include in your diet. These food provide your body with vitamins and minerals that keep you healthier without the damaging effects of refined carbohydrates.
Lean proteins are important too. Eating chicken, turkey, salmon and other fish are healthier ways of getting the protein our bodies need than fatty or processed meats.
Work Towards Being at Your Optimal Weight
Being overweight is a significant factor in the development of diabetes. Having pre diabetes (called insulin resistance) also makes it more difficult to lose weight. That makes it important to maintain a healthy weight throughout your life. Even moderate weight loss helps in preventing diabetes.
Being overweight and eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates causes the cells of your body to become more rigid and less able to take up the insulin it needs function properly. Thus the term “insulin resistant” in someone who is on their way to developing full blown diabetes.
Diabetes Prevention Through Exercise
Physical activity is one of the most important keys to preventing or reversing diabetes.
TV’s Dr. Oz says: “When you exercise and do muscle-building work, the muscle actually becomes more sensitive to insulin. The insulin can work better. It can drive the sugar where it’s supposed to go.”
It isn’t necessary to go directly from couch potato to hitting the gym 7 days a week. Regular body movement of pretty much any kind is a real help.
Develop a routine of getting some exercise daily, whether it be walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, or even doing household chores, or hobbies that involve lots of physical movements such as gardening.
Not only does exercise help insulin to work better, it also helps you lose weight more easily, improves your cholesterol levels, helps to control blood pressure and actually provides you with more energy.
(Note: Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise plan).
The Importance of Stress Reduction
We have so much stress in our lives these days and excess stress is very hard on our bodies in many ways.
We already know that a high level of stress can cause our blood pressure to go up. The Public Health Agency of Canada states that “Diabetes and high blood pressure are often found together. Up to three-quarters of people with undiagnosed diabetes have high blood pressure. Studies show that good control of blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose can substantially reduce the risk of someone developing complications and slow their progression.”
What can you do to keep your stress levels in check?
- Get enough sleep and rest
- Learn relaxation techniques like meditation
- Exercise moderately
- Learn to create balance in your life
- Learn what it takes for you to be happy and work towards that each and every day. Happy people are simply less stressed.
Cigarettes not only harm your lungs, according to Dr. Oz “it kills your pancreas”. Plus the toxins that enter the body make it harder for your immune system to cope. The result? Diseases such as diabetes develop easier in smokers.
Please Note: The opinions expressed on this site are not meant to constitute medical advice or take the place of your medical practitioner.
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