Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition affecting around one in ten Americans. The complications from uncontrolled type 2 diabetes include vision loss and amputation, and it can be fatal in some cases. Diabetes is also an expensive disease, costing the US an estimated $327 billion annually, or $1 out of every $7 spent on healthcare. These costs are projected to grow.
Given the enormous personal and social costs of diabetes, prevention is important. While there is a genetic component to type 2 diabetes, healthy lifestyle changes can help prevent it.
The key to preventing diabetes is to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range. This is as easy as getting regular physical activity and eating well. Follow these tips to lower your diabetes risk.
Exercise helps prevent diabetes by lowering blood sugar, increasing insulin sensitivity, and helping you maintain a healthy weight. Studies show that both aerobic activities (e.g., running, biking, swimming, dancing) and resistance training (e.g., lifting weights) improve blood sugar levels, and the greatest benefits come from doing a mix of both.
That said, the best exercise for you is the one you will actually do. Find an activity you like to do and stick to it. Aim for at least 150 minutes of brisk movement a week, or around 20-30 minutes per day.
Eat More Fiber
Fiber helps ward off diabetes by lowering your blood sugar, boosting your heart health, and assisting in weight management. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Aim for at least 25 grams of fiber a day. If you are not used to fiber, gradually add it to your diet to avoid stomach upset. As your body adjusts, you will feel better than ever.
Choose Whole Grains
Whole grains such as whole wheat, oats, rye, and barley may help prevent diabetes. Aim to increase your intake of whole grains to at least half or more of your daily grain intake. Switching to brown rice from white rice may be particularly beneficial. Studies show that a high intake of white rice increases diabetes risk, while brown rice lowers it.
Eat Less Sugar
A diet full of excess sugar contributes to high blood sugar and excess weight. Sugary drinks, in particular, have been linked to an increased risk of diabetes. Save these drinks for a special treat, if you consume them at all.
Keep Your Weight Within a Healthy Range
Excess weight increases your diabetes risk, but you do not need to follow a restrictive diet or become super skinny to improve your health. Most adults can improve their health and lower their diabetes risk by losing as little as 5-10% of their body weight.
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By following these simple tips, you can help reduce your risk of diabetes and other major health problems, including heart disease and some forms of cancer.