While most of us associate November with Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it also happens to be National Diabetes Month. In addition to significantly increasing ones risk of heart disease, diabetes is the number one cause of blindness and kidney failure among adults. As the seventh leading cause of death in the US, the disease is responsible for almost 70,000 deaths each year – and contributing to thousands more.
In 2012, the American Diabetes Association reported over 29 million cases of diabetes in the US. Given that the number of diabetics increased by nearly 4 million between 2010 and 2012, chances are that number is now well over 32 million. To make matters worse, having diabetes can negatively impact your chances of qualifying for a life insurance policy – or drive your rates sky-high. While type 1 diabetes is usually an inherited condition that appears in childhood, type 2 diabetes – which is far more common and sometimes referred to as adult onset diabetes – is preventable. Fact: Up to 90 percent of type 2 diabetes cases can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices. Here are five easy things you can do to lower your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Obesity is instrumental in the development of type 2 diabetes. If you’re currently overweight, diabetes prevention may come down to weight loss. Every pound that you lose can improve your health considerably. The Mayo Clinic cites a study in which participants who lost roughly seven percent of their body weight reduced their risk of developing diabetes by nearly 60 percent!
- Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity is one of the most effective ways to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Exercise can help you lose weight, lower your blood sugar level, and boost your sensitivity to insulin – which helps keep your blood sugar within a healthy range. Research shows that both aerobic exercise and weight training can help control diabetes, but the greater benefit comes from a fitness program that includes both.
- Cool it on the sugar and carbs. One of the most well-known ways to avoid the onset of type 2 diabetes is to reduce your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates (which your body converts into sugar). Sodas, sweets, white bread, white rice, mashed potatoes, bagels, and many breakfast cereals have whats called a high glycemic index and glycemic load. This means they cause sustained spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which in turn may lead to increased diabetes risk.But not all carbohydrates are bad for you. A diet rich in whole grains can actually lower your diabetes risk. The bran and fiber that are in whole grains make it more difficult for digestive enzymes to convert starches into glucose. This leads to lower – and slower – increases in blood sugar and insulin, and a lower glycemic index. Whole grains are also rich in essential vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that may help reduce the risk of diabetes.
- Choose the right fats. The types of fats that you eat can exert a huge influence on the development – or prevention – of type 2 diabetes. Healthy fats, such as the polyunsaturated fats found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts and seeds are anti-inflammatory, and can help ward off type 2 diabetes by reducing the bodys risk of insulin resistance. Saturated fats and trans fats do just the opposite by promoting inflammation, which indirectly causes insulin resistance. Trans fats are found in margarine, packaged baked goods, fried foods from most fast-food restaurants, and any product that contains partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
- Flavor your food with spices. Believe it or not, certain spices can be instrumental in preventing type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon improves glucose tolerance, and has the ability to interfere with the creation of glycation products that damage blood vessel linings. This property appears to be widespread in the plant kingdom – spices and seasonings such as Jamaican allspice, black pepper, and thyme can also block glycation reactions. Turmeric also seems to reduce blood glucose levels, which is why its used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Moreover, turmerics powerful anti-inflammatory activity can reduce the damage caused by a sugar surplus in the cardiovascular system.
It may seem a tad ironic that National Diabetes Month coincides with the one holiday thats dedicated to overeating. Then again, what better time than Thanksgiving to encourage yourself – and your family – to eat less and hit the gym?