So, do you want to hear the good news or the bad news first? Okay, here’s the bad news—type 2 diabetes is on the rise in the United States, with more than 100 million adults living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to a 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. The good news? Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed if you form healthier daily habits. See below for seven practical (but effective!) steps to preventing diabetes.
1. Load up on fiber and protein.
“Foods such as legumes, wheat bran and whole-wheat flour, as well as all parts of plant food, are rich in fiber and help moderate how much your body digests,” says Neena Xavier, M.D., assistant professor with the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences. “Eating protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, eggs, and tofu help to keep hunger down (so you don’t overeat on carbs) and are a healthy dietary habit.”
2. Quit or avoid smoking.
“Smoking causes damage and reduces the oxygen that your organs need to survive,” says Xavier. “If you damage your pancreas, the organ that releases the hormone insulin, your chances of developing diabetes increase.”
3. Say no to processed foods.
“Avoid processed food, especially meats, and fast food,” says Lorena Wright, M.D., endocrinologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. “This type of foods tend to be calorie dense and will increase the risk of being overweight or obese.”
4. Manage stress levels.
“Stress releases several hormones, such as cortisol, that rise sugar levels and increase insulin resistance,” says Wright. “Strategies to reduce stress around us will result in well-being and lower risk of diabetes.”
5. Incorporate exercise into your week.
“It is very important to exercise regularly, multiple times per week,” says Xavier. “Instead of exercising for an extended period of time for one day, moving for shorter periods of time but more frequently has been shown to keep your metabolism active.” Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen.
6. Don’t skip on the zzz’s.
When we do not get enough rest…we may feel less motivated to exercise, and more prone to choose comfort foods that may be high in sugar, simple carbohydrates and saturated fats,” says Wright. “Poor sleep is stressful for our body systems, and certain disorders of sleep, such as sleep apnea, increase the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes, as well as high blood pressure and heart problems.”
7. Consider adopting a pup!
“As an animal lover, and a dog owner myself, I think that it is quite possible that becoming a responsible dog owner results in behavior modification that addresses some of the risk factors that predispose a subject to diabetes,” says Wright. “The American Heart Association has summarized observations from multiple studies like, ‘if you did not own a companion dog, you were more likely to have diabetes and smoke,’ and ‘if you owned a dog, you were more likely to be more physically active and less likely to be obese.’”
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