Diabetes Prevention: 5 Tips for a Healthier Life
While we primarily talk about Type 1 diabetes here on the Timesulin blog, we also recognize that Type 2 is far and away the most common variant of diabetes, and growing in number every day. While Type 1 diabetes is a hereditary genetic condition that is unpreventable, it IS possible to decrease your chances of getting Type 2 diabetes. And even if you already have Type 2 diabetes, with proper management it’s possible to slow down a lot of the problems that it causes.
Even though Type 2 diabetes has a large genetic and hereditary component, there are a lot of things that you can do to minimize your chances of getting the disease. Here are our top five recommendations and tips to help in Type 2 diabetes prevention.
Eat A Healthy Diet
We’re not saying you need to change everything about your diet, but changing your diet to be healthier and lower in carbohydrates will definitely improve your chances for not developing Type 2 diabetes. Just a few simple steps can go a long way to lowering your risk and making you healthier overall.
As a side benefit, a healthy diet will help you control your weight. Since obesity plays a large role in Type 2 diabetes (being overweight increases your risk by 20 to 40 percent!), keeping your weight in a healthy range is one of the best things you can do to prevent, or control, diabetes.
Cut Out Sodas and Other Sugary Drinks
This one is easy to do and will make a big difference in the way you feel, look, and in your risk for diabetes. In fact, drinking one or more sugary drink per day has been clinically shown to increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes by as much as 83%.
The problem is that the glycemic load, a measure of how much a food will raise your blood glucose level (and how long it will keep it up), of sugary drinks is very high. Regularly consuming foods with a high glycemic index has been shown in multiple studies to greatly increase the risk for diabetes.
For healthy alternatives, try water, or unsweetened tea or coffee. Beware the health promises of fruit juices and drinks, however. Despite being touted as the safe alternative to soda, many of these drinks are not significantly better for you, and still increase your risk of diabetes.
Avoid Processed Grains and Carbs
This one should come as no surprise to healthy eaters. Processed carbohydrates, like white rice, white flour, and mashed potatoes, have a very high glycemic index. They cause your blood sugar to rise quickly, and remain high for an extended period of time. This has been shown to increase risks for diabetes in multiple studies.
What MIGHT come as a surprise is that eating whole grains instead will actually LOWER your risk of diabetes compared to baseline. Research suggests that keeping grains whole allows all of the components in those grains to work together more effectively. This translates to lower blood glucose peaks that take longer to form and dissipate more quickly. The combination of fiber, bran, and other “chaff” in whole grains actually slows down how quickly your body is able to process the carbohydrates inside, leading to a time-release effect. As a side benefit, eating whole grains will actually make you feel full and satisfied for longer than eating a similar portion of processed carbs.
Get Plenty of Exercise
Exercise has plenty to recommend for anyone, but especially for those at risk for Type 2 diabetes. Besides helping you to maintain a healthy weight, exercising regularly also promotes a healthy appetite and trains your body to process nutrients more efficiently. This will lead to an overall healthier eating schedule, which will help a lot in maintaining a proper diet.
Moreover, moderate daily exercise will actually help your body to make better use of both glucose and insulin. Your muscles will become more proficient at absorbing glucose and turning it into energy while using less insulin. Using less insulin means that you have a much lower risk of developing the kind of insulin resistance that can lead to type 2 diabetes.
The best news is that it doesn’t take a lot of exercise to get the benefits. In fact, studies show that something as simple as taking a brisk 30-minute walk every day will reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes by as much as 30%.
Just in case you needed one more reason to quit smoking, we’ve got one for you: smoking can increase your risk for diabetes by as much as 50%. In fact, quitting smoking can be one of the healthiest things you can do, and will greatly help with maintaining your weight and being able get the right amount of exercise.
Moderate Your Drinking
Unlike with smoking, you don’t have to quit drinking entirely. In fact, some drinking will actually help you improve your body’s ability to utilize insulin, and can actually lower the risk of diabetes. The key word, though, is moderate. Studies have shown that for women this is about one drink per day, while for men it’s two drinks per day. Excessive or binge drinking is no good, and will actually increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes.