Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, with an estimated 9.4% of the U.S. population having type 2 diabetes in 2015. In addition to the fears about the long-term complications such as heart disease, eye disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage, it impacts everyday life tremendously.
When having to monitor blood sugar, possibly take medications, and carefully plan meals and exercise it is an expense both financially and emotionally. To avoid this toll, there are simple steps to take which can greatly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:
- Manage your weight – Being overweight greatly increase your risk of developing diabetes. This does not mean you need to be at an ideal weight overnight – even modest weight loss of 5-7% can help reduce your risk. To put this into perspective, a person who weighs 200 pounds and loses 5% of their body weight will have lost 10 pounds.
- Simplify your diet – There is no special “diabetes diet.” Follow a balanced diet of whole, nutrient-dense foods – vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy, and fruits while moderating your intake of carbohydrates (found in grains, fruits, milk, and starchy vegetables). Avoid foods high in added sugars and sugared beverages.
- Move more – This does not mean you need to invest in special equipment or train for a marathon. Any activity is good and helps your body use carbohydrate and insulin more efficiently. Try to fit in extra steps and activity whenever you can.
- Manage stress – Stress can lead a person to engage in unhealthy habits including poor diet and lack of exercise. Try to reduce stressors you can control and incorporate breathing exercises, meditation techniques, and exercise to help manage stress.
- Sleep – New research indicates what lack of proper rest does to the body. It alters hormone levels, increases stress, leads to cravings, all which can alter metabolism. Aim for at least 7 hours per night. Techniques such as having a peaceful bedtime ritual, and disconnecting from devices and technology close to bedtime are a start. Talk to your doctor if sleep has become difficult.
Despite the increase of type 2 diabetes in our population, some simple lifestyle changes can aid in prevention. Start small, adding realistic changes you can sustain.
National Diabetes Statistics Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0718-diabetes-report.html
Zhilei Shan, Hongfei Ma1, Manling Xie, Peipei Yan, Yanjun Guo, Wei Bao, Ying Rong, Chandra L. Jackson, Frank B. Hu, Liegang Liu. “Sleep Duration and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Meta-analysis of Prospective Studies.” Diabetes Care 2015 Mar; 38(3): 529-537.