You may have a family history of diabetes or have been told that you are “pre-diabetic,” which means you have an increased risk of acquiring the disease. So, what now? The incidence of diabetes in America is quite staggering. It affects about 10% of the general population, however, in seniors, that rate rises to about 26%. Over 86 million Americans over age 20 have pre-diabetes. What that basically means is that in addition to not having good control over our blood sugar, we are at increased risk of acquiring a bunch of other health challenges including eye problems, heart disease including stroke and heart attack, high blood pressure, hypoglycemia, and elevated cholesterol levels.
The most obvious response may be to cut the sugar out of your diet. YES, that is very important. AND, also one of the most challenging things for most Americans to do. Yet, it’s not only about cutting the sugar out, but it’s also about decreasing the (not-so-obvious) foods that quickly convert to sugar in the body as well.
Here are 5 proven diet and lifestyle strategies to cut your risk for type 2 diabetes:
1. Work out vigorously every day. Do something to elevate your heart rate. Even if you only have 10 minutes a day, get your body moving and lifting weight. Resistance (strength) training and interval workouts help the body respond better to insulin and use blood sugar more efficiently.
2. Consider yoga. In a study of over 100 (non-smoking) adults (ages 40-75) with type 2 diabetes, a 3-month program including the practice of yoga at least 3 times per week resulted in reducing oxidative stress (inflammation) and improving glycemic control.
3. Cut the simple carbs. Consider cutting the starchy carbohydrates altogether and choose mostly fresh vegetables and lower glycemic fruits like cherries, fresh apples, pears, grapefruit, prunes.
4. Get outdoors and consider supplementing vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Early morning exposure to the sun is one way to get a small dose of this extremely important vitamin. Talk to your doctor about supplementing Vitamin D3 or doing a blood test to see if you are in need.
5. Cut the soda, cut the alcohol, but don’t let go of the coffee. Soda and alcohol both can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels. Coffee, on the other hand, has been shown to actually decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.
And one more bonus tip – go nuts. Consuming nuts and seeds like almonds, pecans, walnuts, flax seeds is good for heart-health, metabolism, and may help decrease your risk for type 2 diabetes. And look for hidden sugars. Read labels. Manufacturers love to add sugar to almost everything. Aim for no more than 25 grams added daily. This would not include fresh fruits and vegetables, but rather the “hidden sugars” that you will be looking for on labels.
Finally, when you have your annual blood work, consider a fasting and non-fasting glucose and insulin levels. Also, Hemoglobin A1c, which is a better measurement of average glucose levels.
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