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Your Six Step To-Do List for Preventing Diabetes

diabetes, type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, diabetes prevention

Many people have prediabetes and don't know about it, but even those who know it, don't take steps to prevent Type 2 diabetes. This is why everyone needs to check these six small lifestyle changes to reduce the risk.

Prediabetes – once called “borderline diabetes” – is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with full-blown diabetes. Unfortunately, because prediabetes symptoms are subtle, about 4% of those with the condition do not know they have it. But even some of those who have prediabetes do not take steps to prevent Type 2 diabetes. It only takes a few small changes to reduce your risk of developing the disease and avoiding the health complications that come along with it.

1. Know Your Risk
It only takes one minute to determine your risk for developing diabetes. Take the Diabetes Risk Test online to find out what your next steps should be to prevent diabetic complications. In general, our risk increases as we age, if we have family members with the disease, or you have detrimental lifestyle factors present, such as a history of obesity or smoking.

If you are at a greater risk of developing diabetes, visit your healthcare provider for a blood test to check glucose levels and to make a plan for preventing further complications.

2. Lose Weight, if Needed
Just a 7% drop in weight (or 10-15 pounds) can make a big difference in reducing your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Even extremely overweight people are 70% less likely to develop diabetes when they lost just 5% of their excess body weight. Combine diet and exercise for the greatest chances of success.

3. Make These Simple Diet Changes
• Cook at home more often using fresh foods instead of processed foods. Regular fast-food eaters, for example, gain more weight and developed twice the rate of insulin resistance – two major risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes.
• Try a few meatless meals per week. In a recent study, women who ate red meat at least 5 times a week had a 29% higher risk of Type 2 diabetes than those who ate it once a week. Also avoid processed meats, such as bologna and hot dogs. These could increase your risk of developing diabetes by as much as 43%.
• Increase Fiber Intake – eat more whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Fiber curbs post-meal sugar spikes by slowing down the flow of glucose into the bloodstream.
• Eat more omega-3 fatty acids – oily fish such as wild salmon and sardines can help improve insulin sensitivity. Just steer clear of fish that tend to have high levels of mercury such as king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish. Mercury is linked to Type 2 diabetes risk.
• Rethink your drink - New research shows that just one sugary soft drink per day can increase diabetes risk by up to 22%.
• Some spices may help with lowering blood sugar. Cinnamon, for example, is rich in nutrients called polyphenols, which help improve the effectiveness of insulin.

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4. Take Time to Exercise
Even taking time to get in a few steps per day can make a big difference in your diabetes risk, even if it doesn’t cause weight loss. In a Finnish study, those who exercised the most – up to 4 hours per week (about 35 minutes per day – dropped their risk of diabetes by 80%. Cardiovascular exercises, such as walking, help the body utilize insulin more efficiently by increasing the number of insulin receptors on your cells, thus keeping the system working to keep blood sugar levels down.

Try to get outdoors for some of that exercise – Vitamin D from the sun might also help prevent diabetes. A review published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that people with high vitamin-D levels were less likely to develop the disease.

Don’t forget to include some strength training exercises regularly as well. Increasing lean muscle mass could lower insulin resistance as well. In a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers found that for every 10% increase in muscle mass, prediabetes risk fell by 12%.

5. Get plenty of Sleep
Long-term sleep deprivation may increase insulin resistance, especially in people genetically predisposed to diabetes, by interfering with hormone levels. In a University of Chicago study, those who slept less than six hours per night were at the highest risk.

6. Reduce Stress
Sometimes this is easier said than done, but chronic stress levels are a risk factor for many major diseases, including diabetes. "Under stress, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, raising blood sugar levels to prepare you for action," says Richard Surwit, PhD, author of The Mind-Body Diabetes Revolution and chief of medical psychology at Duke University.

When you are feeling stressed, take a few minutes to practice deep breathing or listen to calming music. Exercise also helps with stress levels, as does yoga, meditation, or spending time with family and friends.

Women's Health Magazine