Control Your Weight
Weight reduction and exercise are important treatments for diabetes. Weight reduction and exercise increase the body's sensitivity to insulin, thus helping to control blood sugar elevations.
Excess weight is the single most important cause of type 2 diabetes. Being overweight increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes seven fold. Being obese makes you 20 to 40 times more likely to develop diabetes than someone with a healthy weight. Losing weight can help if your weight is above the healthy-weight range: losing 7 to 10 percent of your current weight can cut your chances of developing type 2 diabetes in half.
Avoid a Lethargic Lifestyle
Inactivity promotes type 2 diabetes: working your muscles more often and making them work harder improves their ability to use insulin and absorb glucose. This puts less stress on your insulin-making cells.
Long bouts of exercise aren't necessary to reap this benefit. Studies suggest that walking briskly for a half hour every day reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30 percent. This amount of exercise has a variety of other benefits as well, and greater advantages can be attained by more intense exercise.
Television-watching appears to be an especially-detrimental form of inactivity: watching TV instead of pursuing something more active increases the chances of developing diabetes; it also increases the risk of heart disease and early death. The more time people spend in front of the television the more likely they are to be overweight or obese, and this seems to explain part of the TV viewing-diabetes link. The unhealthy diet patterns associated with TV watching may also explain some of this relationship.
Tune Up Your Diet
Four dietary changes can have a big impact on the risk of type 2 diabetes.
There is convincing evidence that diets rich in whole grains protect against diabetes, whereas diets rich in refined carbohydrates lead to increased risk. While whole grains don't contain a magical nutrient, the bran and fiber make it more difficult for digestive enzymes to break down the starches into glucose. This leads to lower, slower increases in blood sugar and insulin, and a lower glycemic index. As a result, they stress the body's insulin-making machinery less, and so may help prevent type 2 diabetes. Whole grains are also rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that may help reduce the risk of diabetes.
White flour products, white rice, potatoes and many breakfast cereals have a high glycemic index and glycemic load. That means they cause sustained spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which in turn may lead to increased diabetes risk.
Like refined grains, sugary beverages have a high glycemic load and are associated with increased risk of diabetes. Studies show that women who drank one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day had an 83 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes, compared to women who drank less than one sugar-sweetened beverage per month. Weight gain may explain the link: women who increased their consumption of sugary drinks gained more weight than women who cut back on sugary drinks. Several studies show that children and adults who drink soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages are more likely to gain weight than those who don't, and that switching from these to water or unsweetened beverages can reduce weight. There is also mounting evidence that sugary drinks contribute to chronic inflammation, high triglycerides, decreased "good" (HDL) cholesterol, and increased insulin resistance, all of which are risk factors for diabetes.
Water is an excellent substitute. Coffee and tea are also good calorie-free substitutes for sugared beverages (without added sugar and cream). There's convincing evidence that coffee may help protect against diabetes; emerging research suggests that tea may hold diabetes-prevention benefits as well, but more research is needed.
A recent long-term analysis on data from 40,000 men found that drinking one 12-ounce serving of diet soda a day does not appear to increase diabetes risk. So in moderation, diet beverages can be a good sugary-drink alternative.
The types of fats in your diet can also affect the development of diabetes. "Good" fats, such as the polyunsaturated fats found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds can help ward off type 2 diabetes. Trans fats do just the opposite; these "bad" fats are found in many margarines, packaged baked goods, fried foods and any product that lists "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" on the label. Eating polyunsaturated fats from fish - "long chain omega 3" or "marine omega 3" fats - does not protect against diabetes, even though there is much evidence that they help prevent heart disease.
Evidence is growing that eating red meat (beef, pork, lamb) and processed red meat (bacon, hot dogs, deli meats) increases the risk of diabetes, even among people who consume only small amounts. Exchanging a healthier protein source such as nuts, low-fat dairy, poultry, or fish, or whole grains for red or processed meat can lower diabetes risk by up to 35 percent.
It may be that the high iron content of red meat diminishes insulin's effectiveness or damages the cells that produce insulin; the high levels of sodium and nitrites (preservatives) in processed red meats may also be to blame. Red and processed meats are a hallmark of the unhealthful "Western" dietary pattern, which seems to trigger diabetes in people who are already at genetic risk.
Add type 2 diabetes to the long list of health problems linked with smoking. Smokers are roughly 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers, and heavy smokers have an even higher risk.
A growing body of evidence links moderate alcohol consumption with reduced risk of heart disease. The same may be true for type 2 diabetes. Moderate amounts of alcohol (one drink a day for women, up to two drinks a day for men) increases the efficiency of insulin at getting glucose inside cells. And some studies indicate that moderate alcohol consumption decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes. If you already drink alcohol, you should keep your consumption in the moderate range as higher amounts of alcohol could increase diabetes risk. If you don't drink alcohol you can get the same benefits by losing weight, exercising more, and changing your eating patterns.
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