In the U.S., an estimated 30 million people have diabetes, and that number is growing every year. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you know someone with type 2 diabetes or are at risk yourself. Fortunately, learning to recognize risk factors and take steps to prevent diabetes is much easier than dealing with its long-term effects. Whether you’re at high risk for developing type 2 or have other risk factors for this disease, taking charge of your health can have a huge impact on whether or not you develop diabetes. Follow these seven strategies to reduce your risk of developing this condition and if you currently have pre-diabetes or other risk factors for type 2, these tips can help keep it from progressing any further.
Commit to a healthy diet and exercise.
Diabetes is most often caused by a combination of genetic factors and lifestyle choices. While genetics will always be a factor, you can make big changes to your lifestyle that can drastically reduce your risk of developing this condition. First and foremost, commit to eating a healthy diet that’s low in saturated fats, refined carbs, and sugar. Choose whole grains, lean meats, and lots of fresh produce, and steer clear of artificial sweeteners and added sugars. Exercise is key, too. Try to fit in 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days of the week. If you have pre-diabetes, you may also want to consider resistance training or strengthening exercises on a regular basis. Ask your doctor for more specific exercise recommendations that are tailored to your unique situation.
Control your weight by eating right and exercising regularly.
Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes. In fact, many people who are diagnosed with type 2 actually have what’s known as “pre-diabetes” — the disease in its early stages, when blood sugar levels are still within the normal range. Pre-diabetes is actually more common than diabetes itself, and it’s something that many people don’t even know they have. If you’re overweight or obese, losing even 5 percent of your body weight can make a big difference.
Get enough Vitamin D and B12.
There’s very little research linking specific foods or nutrients to diabetes, but several vitamins and minerals are important for general health and may help prevent diabetes. Getting enough Vitamin D, for instance, is known to reduce the risk of developing type 2 by up to 40 percent. B vitamins, such as B6 and B12, may also help protect against diabetes. Avoiding deficiency in these nutrients is important for everyone, but especially for people with a higher risk for diabetes.
Be wary of gluten and be careful with carbs.
Some researchers believe that gluten may increase your risk of developing diabetes. If you have a family history of the disease, it’s a good idea to avoid gluten as much as possible. Also be cautious with carb intake, as it’s widely believed that people with pre-diabetes should reduce their carb intake and eat more vegetables.
Check your insulin levels regularly.
If you have pre-diabetes, ask your doctor about getting tested for insulin levels. This is a simple blood test that can tell you whether or not your body is producing insulin as effectively as it should be. If your results are normal, you probably don’t need to be worried. But if they’re abnormally low, this could be a sign that you’re on your way to developing diabetes. If so, taking steps to keep your insulin levels in check can help prevent type 2 from progressing.
Monitor your cholesterol levels, too.
Another common risk factor for type 2 diabetes is high cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, reducing your intake of saturated fats and cholesterol-rich foods like eggs and dairy may help. Be sure to talk with your doctor about specific dietary guidelines that are tailored to your situation.
Stay in touch with your doctor and be diligent with prescriptions.
If you have pre-diabetes, make sure your doctor knows about it. Keep an eye on your blood sugar levels, and let him or her know if they seem to be rising. If you’re taking prescription medications to control your blood sugar, be diligent with taking them as prescribed. Missing even one dose can be dangerous and could cause your blood sugar levels to spike. Ask your doctor if there are any food or lifestyle changes you can make to help your prescriptions work more effectively.
Preventing diabetes is much easier than dealing with the long-term effects of the disease. Once you’ve been diagnosed with it, it’s much more difficult to reverse the process. The sooner you start taking care of yourself and making positive changes, the better your chances of staying healthy. Keeping your blood sugar levels in check, watching your diet, and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking are important steps you can take to avoid diabetes. While you can’t control whether or not you’re genetically predisposed to developing type 2, you can take steps to reduce your risk and keep your blood sugar levels healthy.
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