According to the American Diabetic Association, diabetes is a nationwide epidemic, affecting roughly 34 million Americans including children and adults. Thanks to modern medicine, a variety of treatments are available for diabetes, and many more are under research. However, this condition is highly preventable. Here are the top 7 ways to prevent diabetes, or better manage it if already developed.
Home made meals
Home-made meals are the best. Western-style diet is recognized as a major contributor to diabetes, changes in metabolism, excess weight, high blood pressure, heart diseases, and chronic kidney diseases. Foods have a major impact on insulin levels, insulin sensitivity, and ability to keep blood sugar levels under control. If you eat fast food and refined food high in sugars, salt and unhealthy fats try to replace them with home-cooked foods, one meal at a time. Choose whole grains instead of highly refined bread and pasta. Choose a cup of berries with yogurt or some dark chocolate instead of cookies or doughnuts as a dessert. Have more fish, poultry, eggs, and beans instead of processed meats and red meat as sources of proteins. Olive oil, nuts, and seeds are additional sources of healthy fats. Enjoy plenty of fresh vegetables from all rainbow colors.
Hydration Is Important
Stay well hydrated to avoid increased blood sugar levels. Dehydration is a common problem for many people, and feeling thirsty is a typical symptom of diabetes. Mild dehydration causes thirst, dry mouth, headaches, dry skin, darker urine, fatigue, and dizziness. Some people choose to count the amount of water consumed (i.e. 2 liters daily), while others do the “urine test”: a light yellow colored urine suggesting proper hydration. Even better, add some electrolytes to the water, as dehydration usually involves loss of water and minerals.
Exercise “snacks”. A sedentary life is another important risk factor for diabetes. Many people struggle to start an exercise program and commit long-term to it. Yet, short exercise programs can be easily incorporated into the daily routine. Choose an exercise “snack” rather than a muffin when taking a 10-15 minute break from work. Go for a quick walk, do some pushups, crunches, squats- anything you may enjoy. Just move during that break.
Sleep well, aim for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep. While the benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise for blood sugar are well known, sleep is often underestimated. Blood sugar levels go up during sleep, typically around 4- 8 a.m. for those with a standard sleep schedule, and these changes are normal. However, the quality and quantity of sleep are essential for blood sugar control during the day. According to the Sleep Foundation, decreased sleep increases blood sugar, and even partial sleep deprivation during one night can cause insulin resistance and further lead to diabetes. A variety of sleep-related factors influence blood sugar levels including the amount of sleep, the stages of sleep, the time of the day a person goes to sleep, the age, and the person’s eating habits (which overlap with nutrition).
Lose some of those extra pounds (even a few can help!). If you follow the first four tips, you are on your way to a healthy weight. Weight control is very important, as you can prevent or delay the development of diabetes simply by losing 5-10% of the current weight- and maintaining that weight loss. For someone who weighs 200 pounds, a loss of 10-20 pounds can make a significant difference.
Don’t smoke, don’t drink too much alcohol. Smokers are at increased risk for diabetes and quitting is one of the best tools to prevent or manage this condition. When it comes to alcohol, the risks are dose-dependent. Lower amounts of alcohol seem to be protective against diabetes, while chronic, heavy alcohol consumption is a risk factor for diabetes. In conclusion, it is ok to have an occasional drink with dinner, but do avoid excess drinking.
Maintain healthy levels of vitamin D, at least 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/l). Millions of people all around the world have vitamin D deficiency. This vitamin is essential to support glucose control, immune function, and overall health. Studies found that those who have low levels of vitamin D are at higher risk to get all types of diabetes, and those who had healthy levels of this nutrient were over 40% less likely to develop diabetes compared with those with lower levels. Diet provides limited amounts of vitamin D, and the main source is exposure to sunlight. Supplements are widely available and inexpensive. In addition to vitamin D supplements, cod liver oil is also a source of this nutrient, vitamin A and omega 3 fatty acids.
If you need extra help, talk to a nutritionist or a fitness coach to stay on track with the diet and exercise plan. Consistency is key, as these tips work when they are maintained long-term. Regular follow-ups with the doctor are also important, as sometimes medication may be needed.