It’s no secret that Type 2 diabetes is at epidemic levels worldwide. In fact, China announced in the summer of 2013 that they have more Type 2 diabetics than any other nation. Type 2 diabetes is also showing up in teens and adolescents with alarming frequency. If the spread of the disease continues at its current rate, the CDC estimates that there will be nearly half a billion type 2 diabetics worldwide in 2030.
What’s most alarming about type 2 diabetes and difficult for the newly-diagnosed to absorb, are the devastating long-term consequences of the disease. The list of diabetes-related complications is long: cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, mild to severe nerve damage, blindness, circulation problems which lead to the amputation of a toe, foot, or leg, and many other problems. In fact, diabetes has become the 7th leading cause of death.
A remarkable fact is that 9 out of 10 cases of Type 2 diabetes are completely preventable. Simply by keeping weight under control, exercising, eating a proper diet, and not smoking, all but the most genetically predetermined cases could be avoided. But unlike many other diseases, the early symptoms of diabetes can be very subtle, and creeps up on a person over a period of years. Sometimes a patient has no idea they have diabetes until they’re laying in a hospital ER with out of control blood glucose levels.
“Information from several clinical trials strongly supports the idea that type 2 diabetes is preventable. The Diabetes Prevention Program examined the effect of weight loss and increased exercise on the development of type 2 diabetes among men and women with high blood sugar readings that hadn’t yet crossed the line to diabetes. In the group assigned to weight loss and exercise, there were 58 percent fewer cases of diabetes after almost three years than in the group assigned to usual care. Even after the program to promote lifestyle changes ended, the benefits persisted: The risk of diabetes was reduced, albeit to a lesser degree, over 10 years. Similar results were seen in a Finnish study of weight loss, exercise, and dietary change, and in a Chinese study of exercise and dietary change.” – Harvard School Of Public Health
The Harvard School of Public health has suggestions as to how you can prevent Type 2 diabetes
1. Control your weight. Being overweight increases the chance that you’ll develop diabetes, sevenfold. Being obese makes you 20 to 40 times more likely to develop the disease. But there’s hope, if you fall into one of those categories – lose 10% of your body weight and your chances of developing the disease decrease by half.
2. Get moving. Inactivity increases your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. Working your muscles regularly improves their ability to utilize glucose and insulin, but this doesn’t necessarily mean pumping iron in a gym. In fact, studies have shown that walking briskly for 30 minutes every day reduces your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 30 percent.
Are you a television junkie? New research concludes that this particular form of inactivity – sitting motionless, staring at the screen for hours – actually increases your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes by 20 percent (not to mention the potential cardiovascular issues you’ll develop). We also tend to eat more when we’re parked in front of the TV, spurred on by all of the suggestions in the commercials.
3. Improve your diet.
a. Choose whole grains over highly processed white flour/white sugar products. In the Nurses’ Health Studies for example, researchers looked at the whole grain consumption of more than 160,000 women whose health and dietary habits were followed for 18 years. Women who averaged two to three servings of whole grains a day were 30 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who rarely ate whole grains. When the researchers combined these results with those of several other large studies, they found that eating an extra 2 servings of whole grains a day decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 21 percent.
Whole wheat doesn’t contain a magic ingredient – it’s the opposite effect. White rice, white bread, mashed potatoes, donuts, bagels, and similar foods cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which over time can lead to type 2 diabetes. Substitute whole grains for white, and they break down more slowly in your gut, which slows down the speed at which your blood sugars rise. You’ll also eat less of them compared to white flour products, because the fiber will make you feel full.
b. Skip the sugar in beverages. Since the beginning of time, your body’s preferred beverage was water, followed a thousand years later by tea, and then coffee. Beverages with high amounts of sugar – sodas, fruit juices**, fruit cocktails, energy drinks, Kool Aid, and the like – spike blood sugar quickly and put a load of stress on insulin levels. There is also mounting evidence that sugary drinks contribute to chronic inflammation, increased insulin resistance, high triglyceride levels, and lower “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels, all of which are risk factors for diabetes.
c. Swap good fats for bad fats
Good: liquid vegetable oils, nuts, seeds.
Bad: margarines, fats used in packaged baked goods and fast food, and products which include “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on their label.
d. Avoid red meat and processed meat. Many people believe that they can’t live without a serving of meat every day, yet nothing is further from the truth. While it’s true that we need plenty of protein in our diet, we can easily substitute beans, nuts, and whole grains instead. You’ll also feel a bit lighter and less bloated doing so.
New research has indicated that red meat and processed meat may actually increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. It’s not completely understood why this is so, but scientists believe that the high iron levels in red meat may be to blame, or the sodium and preservatives in processed meats.
4. Kick the habit. In addition to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary disease, smoking cigarettes is now linked to Type 2 diabetes as well. Smokers are 50% more likely than non-smokers to become diabetic, and heavy smokers are at an even higher risk.
To sum it up, diabetes in most cases can be prevented by eating right and getting regular, moderate exercise, both of which will keep your weight under control.
**Note that fruit juices are included in the list, but this is not to say that juice fresh-squeezed by you from an orange or grapefruit is bad for you. Bottled fruit juices – even those that are labeled 100%fruit juice – in most cases have had their sugar content boosted by partially dehydrating the juice. When the water is reduced, the sugar content goes up. Notice the difference between the juice you squeeze from a fresh orange and the o.j. that comes in a carton. Night and day.