Diabetes is increasing at a rapid rate in the United States. In the last 10 years, rates are up 33%. Currently there are 18.2 million people with diabetes in the U.S. and unfortunately, some 5.2 million don’t even know they have the problem. Another 45 million people have pre-diabetes! Over 1 million people will be diagnosed with diabetes this year.
Recent studies indicate that diabetes is largely preventable by adopting a healthy lifestyle. In the nurses health study (84,000 women followed for 16 years) the researchers concluded that 90% of all new cases of diabetes could have been prevented by a healthier lifestyle.
Preventive Actions You Can Take
Here are 7 key steps you can take based on this large population study and other research, to help you prevent diabetes.
1. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Excess body fat, measured as body mass index (BMI), is the primary risk factor for diabetes. Compared to lean women (BMI <23), moderately overweight women (BMI of 25-29) were 7.6 times more likely to develop diabetes. A BMI over 30 increased the risk by 20 times, and a BMI of 35+ jumped the risk by 39 times! Risks are similar for men. Check your BMI in the chart below (height in inches, weight in pounds).
2. Get regular physical activity. Exercise acts much like insulin in the body and is a key therapeutic action for both treatment and prevention of diabetes. Regular activity also helps weight control, normalizing of blood pressure and blood fats, and reduces insulin resistance that is so closely linked to type 2 diabetes.
The national guideline for fitness states, “Every US adult should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderateintensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of
the week.3″ Walking is one of the best activities nearly everyone can do safely. Regular activity can reduce the risk of diabetes by 25% to 50%.
3. Not smoking Smoking increases the risk of diabetes. Nonsmokers had a 34% lower risk of getting diabetes2.
4. Limit sweets, refined foods, and high glycemic index foods. Highly refined foods are absorbed more quickly resulting in a higher insulin response. Eating heavily of
these foods, termed “high glycemic index” foods, increases the risk of developing diabetes. Eat these foods sparingly.
Foods of high glycemic index include:
Â· Sugar, sweets, most desserts
Â· Soda pop and sugar sweetened punch
Â· White rice
Â· Refined cereals rich in sugar
Â· Potatoes such as French fries
Â· Pastry, cookies, and most snack foods
Â· White bread, rolls, pancakes, etc.
5. Eat more high fiber foods. Unrefined foods, high in dietary fiber, slow the absorption of carbohydrate and decrease the insulin demand. These foods protect against
diabetes. It’s recommended that you eat at least 15 grams of dietary fiber per 1000 calories eaten per day. That’s generally 30+ grams of dietary fiber daily. Good sources of high fiber foods include:
Â· Whole-grain breads, oatmeal, brown rice, cereal
Â· Fruits: apples, bananas, berries, melons, citrus
Â· Vegetables: salads, greens, squash, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, peas, stir fry
Â· Legumes: peas, lentils, beans, garbanzos, soy
Â· Nuts and seeds
Limiting refined and high glycemic foods and eating more fiber can cut the risk of diabetes in half.
6. Choose healthy fats. The Nurse’s health study showed that reducing trans fats (found in foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) by only 2% of calories, and
replacing them with polyunsaturated fats resulted in a 40% decreased risk of getting diabetes. Avoiding saturated fat and cholesterol is also important for heart health.
7. Regular checkups. The American Diabetic Association recommends testing for diabetes (a fasting blood glucose test) in all persons age 45 and older, at least once every three years. This test should be started at a younger age and checked more often in high risk persons.
Take preventive steps now. By following these positive guidelines you can lower your chances of ever developing diabetes by as much as 90%, even if you have a family history of diabetes2. You will also certainly look and feel your best. Get help from your doctor, a dietitian, or health counselor as needed in making therapeutic lifestyle changes.
More Information? Visit www.Diabetes.org
1. American Diabetes Association web site: diabetes.org, Facts and Figures, 2005
2. Hu FB, et al, Diet, lifestyle, and the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in women, New England Journal of Medicine 345:790-7, Sept. 13, 2001
3. NIH, and ACSM, Physical activity and Public Health, JAMA 273:402-7, 1995