Throughout November, National Diabetes Month, we’ve been sharing information about how to avoid the disease, which now affects more than 24 million Americans. Public health officials describe those numbers as an epidemic. And although some of the people with the disease have genetic predispositions to develop diabetes, behavioral modifications can help most of us avoid developing it. Simply put, the key to avoiding diabetes is to stay lean and keep moving. For a more detailed explanation, consider these five simple steps you can take now to help avoid developing diabetes:
1. Keep Your Weight Under Control.
This is the single most important step you can take to avoid diabetes. Experts suggest keeping your body mass index (BMI) under 25. Being overweight increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes by a factor of seven; being obese makes you 20 to 40 times more likely to develop diabetes than someone with a healthy weight. If you lose seven to ten percent of your body weight, you cut your chances of developing diabetes in half.
2. Keep Moving. Working your muscles and making them work harder improves their ability to absorb glucose and use insulin, the key to fighting diabetes. You don’t need to go to the gym and get all hot and sweaty, either. Studies have shown that moderate walking helps fight off diabetes. And be warned: there is a link between watching TV and developing diabetes. A study showed a 20 percent increase in your chances of developing diabetes for every two hours spent watching TV.
3. Improve Your Diet. Avoid highly processed foods and instead seek out foods in their whole form. Think whole grains rather than processed and fresh fruit instead of canned or dried. Drink water, coffee or tea instead of sugary drinks like soda and juice. And while the jury is still out on whether artificially-sweetened sodas can help or hinder the fight against diabetes, it appears that drinking one 12-ounce serving of diet soda each day will not hurt your efforts to fight type 2 diabetes. Seek out good fats, like those found in olive oil, tree nuts or avocados and avoid trans fats. Skip processed meats and eat red meat sparingly. Load up on non-starchy vegetables, especially leafy greens.
4. Don’t Smoke. Smokers are 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than non smokers, and the more you smoke, the greater the risk. Nobody has anything good to say about smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, try to quit as soon as you can.
5. Limit Alcohol Consumption. The rule used to be to avoid alcohol completely, but new research shows that up to one drink daily for women and two for men may help insulin get glucose into cells. As with all things alcohol-related, the key is moderation.