Statistics show that diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death for adults globally, and the number of diabetes cases rose nearly four times between 1980 and 2014 from 108 million to 422 million. Adults over the age of 45 years old are especially at risk for developing diabetes. In fact, about one in three adults in the United States over the age of 65 years have diabetes. Therefore, it's important to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors if you have diabetes or are at risk for diabetes to prevent complications.
Although some risk factors such as family history can put you at greater risk for developing diabetes, some may be able to reduce their risk with healthy lifestyle changes. Read below to learn more about the types of diabetes, risk factors of diabetes, how to adopt a diabetes-friendly diet and what lifestyle changes you can make to prevent and/or treat diabetes today.
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas either does not make enough insulin, or the insulin in your body does not work right. Insulin is the hormone your body uses to obtain energy from the glucose in the food you eat. Therefore, when the insulin is not there or is not working, more glucose builds up in your blood. In turn, untreated diabetes can lead to a variety of health problems like nerve damage, kidney disease, eye problems and heart disease.
There are two major types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but mostly develops at an early age. This type of diabetes happens when a person does not produce insulin at all. Having a family history of type 1 diabetes puts you at risk of developing this form of diabetes. Unfortunately, lifestyle behaviors cannot prevent you from developing type 1 diabetes. Treatment of type 1 diabetes includes medications and insulin injections.
However, type 2 diabetes, which is the most common, occurs when the insulin in your body does not work right. This type of diabetes can occur at any age, but mostly in older age. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
In addition to the above risk factors of type 2 diabetes, certain ethnicities are also at greater risk of developing this disease. Such ethnicities include African-American, Hispanic, Latino, Native American, Alaskan native, and certain Asian-American people.
You can't control your age, ethnicity or family history. Luckily, there are some risk factors you can control to help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These controllable risk factors include:
Insulin and other medications are a few ways to treat type 2 diabetes once it has already begun. However, let's talk more about the lifestyle behaviors mentioned above that can also help, and in some cases, prevent type 2 diabetes from starting.
If you are looking to reduce your blood fats, you should reduce your intake of saturated fat. Foods that are high in saturated fat include:
Instead of such foods, try to lean more toward healthy fats like avocado, plant-based oils like olive oil, as well as nuts and seeds. You can also obtain healthy fats from certain fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel, for example.
By making more intentional gentle movements throughout each day, you can help keep your heart strong and manage your weight. In turn, you can reduce your risk of both heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Some ways to improve your physical activity each day includes:
Research shows that stress can negatively impact not only the ability of people to stick to type 2 diabetes treatment, but it can also increase blood glucose levels and a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes to begin with.
You can reduce stress daily by using some of the following tips:
Research shows that music can help relax both the mind and the body by reducing stress. Therefore, if you are feeling overwhelmed with stress, find a quiet place in your home, outdoors, or otherwise, wear some noise-cancelling headphones (if you're not driving), and turn on some soothing, soft music. By focusing on the soothing sounds, you can reduce stress and in turn help reduce blood pressure as well as your risk of type 2 diabetes.
By performing yoga now and then, research shows that you can help reduce stress levels. You can start by taking a gentle yoga class to see if you like it. Often local yoga studios will offer a free introductory class so you can try out their classes, so ask about such offers in your area.
Whether you take a nature walk, engage in some relaxation breathing, or simply hold a warm cup of tea while looking out at your garden, mindfulness can help reduce stress and can even manage pain in some cases.
You can release tension and relax your muscles through stretching or light walking. Not only that, but walking can also help you strengthen your heart while releasing “feel good” hormones.
It can help to talk about the stress that one feels to best manage it. Through talk therapy with a counselor, along with daily affirmations, you can turn your focus to what you are grateful for and your positive traits, so that you can reduce the stress you may feel from outside influences.
Unlike what you may think, a diabetes-friendly diet does not completely cut carbohydrates. Your body needs some carbohydrates for energy. The key is to focus on complex carbohydrates that are a good source of fiber. These types of foods will help slow digestion and in turn help to stabilize blood glucose levels.
Examples of complex carbohydrates include:
You can also help to stabilize blood glucose levels by consuming protein-rich foods like beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products seafood, pork, and plant-based proteins like nuts, seeds, tofu and other soy-based proteins.
If you want to eat a more diabetes-friendly diet each day, you simply must focus on balancing fiber and protein as well as reducing added sugar intake.
And as you'll notice, eggs are part of a diabetes-friendly diet. In fact, research shows that one egg a day can help reduce one's risk of heart disease and stroke. And since those with diabetes are at higher risk of heart disease than others, adding heart-healthy diet factors to a diabetes-friendly diet is vital. Read below for some meal and snack ideas that fit perfectly within the diabetes-friendly lifestyle.
A diabetes-friendly meal should consist of a source of protein, a fiber-rich whole-grain or starchy vegetable (rice, corn, beans, potato, sweet potato), and a cup or so of non-starchy vegetable (leafy greens, carrots, green beans, etc.). Also, adding a healthy fat source such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, or seeds can help further (plant-based oil, butter, avocado, nuts, and/or seeds) can help support heart health.
Also, you'll notice that there are not any artificial sweeteners included in the following meals and snacks. This is because there is currently mixed research on the use of such sweeteners with those who have type 2 diabetes.
When you enjoy a snack, it's important to always pair a fruit, vegetable, or whole-grain food with a protein-rich food to help satisfy your appetite in between meals and to help stabilize blood glucose levels.
Whether you are at risk of diabetes or have diabetes, making lifestyle changes to help prevent or treat type 2 diabetes can feel overwhelming. But it's important to remember to just take such lifestyle changes one at a time so they can flow into your current lifestyle seamlessly. Maybe start by reducing your intake of sugary juices and sodas by replacing them with more water and low-sugar fruit juices instead. Then, start adding more fiber-rich vegetables into each meal and snack.
Each slight change you make will add up to great benefits to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes over time. And if you need help starting such a lifestyle, never hesitate to ask a professional such as a registered dietitian, exercise specialist, or psychologist for help with healthy eating, exercise, or stress management, respectively. Call your insurance company today to see if such provider appointments and other health and wellness resources such as fitness center discounts are covered by your plan.
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