Diabetes is a serious and, unfortunately, all-too-prevalent health concern in the United States. Someone is diagnosed with diabetes every 19 seconds, and it affects almost 30 million children and adults. That is around 10% of the population.
There are ways to help prevent Type 2 diabetes, which stems from factors such as diet and body weight.
The following are things to know about diabetes and how to avoid it.
There Are Three Types of Diabetes
When we talk about diabetes prevention, we’re most commonly talking about Type 2.
Type I diabetes is also called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. With this condition, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t make any at all. Your cells then can’t absorb glucose, which is required for energy production.
With Type 2 diabetes, you may have to take insulin injections to manage the condition.
Type 2 diabetes means you have insulin resistance, so your body isn’t using insulin correctly.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common, and it accounts for around 90% of worldwide cases. It can affect anyone but is most frequent in middle-aged and older people. A lack of physical activity and obesity are the primary risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
Treating this type can include the use of medication and making lifestyle changes.
There’s a third type called gestational diabetes, which can develop during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes occurs because of the production of certain hormones contributing to insulin resistance. If you have gestational diabetes that’s not well-controlled, it can affect you and your baby.
Usually, pregnant women with gestational diabetes are advised to eat healthily and exercise, and they may also take medicine.
While many people can manage their diabetes through medicine and lifestyle changes, it is one of the top causes of disability in the U.S. However, diabetes isn’t automatically considered a disabling condition under guidelines from the Social Security Administration.
Diabetes can impact your quality of life, and when it’s not well-controlled, there can be serious or even deadly complications.
Complications of Type 2 diabetes can include:
- Blood vessel and heart damage that increases the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
- Nerve damage is also known as neuropathy and can lead to pain and burning in the fingers and toes. Some people lose all feeling in the limbs affected by neuropathy. Nerve damage can occur in the digestive system too and can cause symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
- Kidney damage or failure can occur with diabetes. Sometimes kidney problems may require a kidney transplant or dialysis.
- People with Type 2 diabetes that’s not well-controlled are at greater risk for eye diseases such as glaucoma. There may be damage to the retinal blood vessels that can lead to blindness.
- Type 2 diabetes can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Other possible complications are hearing impairment, skin conditions such as fungal infections, and sleep apnea.
Whether you’re prediabetic and you want to help prevent Type 2 diabetes or you already have diabetes but you want to make sure it’s well-controlled, there are choices you can make in your daily life that will help.
Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, so do your best to lose weight, and this can help prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes significantly.
Losing just 5 to 10% of your body weight can reduce your diabetes risk. The more weight you lose, the more benefits you’re likely to see.
Eliminate Sugar and Refined Carbs
Foods that are high in sugar and refined carbs are two things that can significantly up your chance of developing diabetes.
When you eat these foods, your body breaks them down into sugar molecules that are then absorbed into your bloodstream. Your blood sugar increase triggers your pancreas to make insulin.
If you have prediabetes, your cells are resistant to insulin, and sugar stays high in your blood. Your pancreas then tries to compensate by making more insulin. This can lead to higher blood sugar and insulin levels over time.
Being physically active regularly can help you avoid Type 2 diabetes or help you get it under control if you already have it.
When you exercise, it increases your cell’s insulin sensitivity. This means that you need less insulin to control your blood sugar levels.
Moderate-intensity exercise has been found to increase insulin sensitivity by more than 50%. High-intensity exercise can increase sensitivity by as much as 85%.
Aerobic exercise, strength training, and high-intensity interval training have all been shown to help reduce insulin resistance and blood sugar.
Try to find activities that you find enjoyable because you need to exercise consistently for the best results.
Even if you aren’t ready to jump into an intense workout routine, focusing on not being sedentary can help a lot. Try to move as much as you can throughout the day, whether it’s walking around, getting up to do chores, or taking stretch breaks every hour when you’re working or watching TV.
Drink more water and make it your primary beverage if possible. Many beverages are high in sugar and other ingredients that could make you more susceptible to developing Type 2 diabetes. For example, both soda and juice are linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Water not only helps you reduce your intake of sugary beverages, but it may help with your insulin response and blood sugar control too.
Consider a Low-Carb Diet
Following a low carb diet such as the keto diet can be beneficial to reducing your chances of developing diabetes.
Low carb diets have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, reduce blood sugar, and lower other diabetes risk factors.
When you don’t eat a lot of carbs, then your blood sugar isn’t going to spike as much after meals.
Your body will then need to make less insulin to keep your blood sugar at healthy levels.
There’s some evidence that low-carb or keto diets also reduce fasting blood sugar.