In the past 30 years, the prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes has skyrocketed to such an extent that it is now viewed as an epidemic in the western world. From being a once fairly mild and rare ailment of the elderly to becoming a chronic disease, this type of diabetes affects people of every age, race, and background, and is now a major modern cause of premature death in many countries around the world. Someone dies from Type 2 Diabetes every 10 seconds worldwide. Happily, there is a great way to prevent Type 2 Diabetes: establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Maintaining Healthy Eating Habits
1Understand the connection between diet and diabetes. Eating excessive sweets and fatty foods increases your risk for pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes development. You can reverse high-normal blood sugar (pre-diabetes) and reduce your risk for Type 2 Diabetes by reducing unhealthy foods, watching your portions, and eating a balanced diet.
2Eat more fruits and vegetables. Aim for seven to nine daily servings of fruit and vegetables. Frozen and dried fruits and vegetables offer some health benefits, but fresh, in-season produce always packs the most nutritional power. Try to reduce your intake of canned vegetables because they have higher salt content.
3Select fruits and vegetables in a variety of rich colors. Deeper colors often mean more nutrients, so it is best to eat a variety of different fruits and vegetables that offer an array of bright colors. Some produce to focus on includes:
- Dark green veggies like broccoli, spinach, kale, and Brussels sprouts
- Orange veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and winter squash
- Red fruits and vegetables like strawberries, raspberries, beets, and radishes
- Yellow foods such as squash, mango, and pineapple
4Eat complex carbohydrates. Skip the pastries, cakes, fries, and other processed carbohydrates. Fill up instead on carbohydrates that are healthy, including fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and fresh breads. Look for choices with high fiber content; fiber has been shown to lower blood sugar by acting as a “mop” slowing down the digestive process and the speed with which glucose enters the bloodstream.
- Eat legumes such as black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, split peas, lentils.
- Select whole grains, whole grain rice, breakfast cereals with 100 percent whole grain content, and whole grain pasta.
- Choose whole-wheat bread products such as bagels, pita bread, and tortillas.
5Limit the sugar you’re drinking. One of the leading sources of empty calories and excess sugar is drinking sugar-laden beverages such as sodas and “juice drinks” with limited juice content. You should aim to quench your thirst with water most of the time. If you’re worried about its quality, purchase a filter. If you are accustomed to drinking sugary drinks, your body will crave sweetened drinks initially until you wean yourself from the habit.
- Sodas, soft drinks, fruit juice, cordial, fruit drinks, flavored water, energy drinks, etc., are all sources of invisible sugar that your body does not need. Leave these drinks for treats only and rely on drinking water and milk.
- If you get tired of plain water, soda water and sparkling mineral water are free of sugar, and a few drops of freshly-squeezed lemon or orange juice can be sufficient to flavor these drinks pleasantly.
- Coffee and unsweetened tea can also be enjoyed in moderation.
6Stop snacking on sugar and refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates such as white flour products almost instantly turn to sugar when you eat them. Sugar resides in many snacks from the obvious cakes, pastries, candies, and chocolate, to the less obvious fruit bars and sweetened yogurts. Sugar is cheap and it satisfies cravings, provides a quick pick-me-up for after-lunch crashes, and is serves a never-ending need for fast energy fixes. Don’t stock up on sugary treats and don’t reach for them when you feel like a lift.
- Be aware that sugar can “hide” where you may not expect it, like in breakfast cereals. Opt for cereals with less sugar that are 100 percent wholegrain. You can also substitute sugary cereals with oatmeal, amaranth, or other grain-based options. Try making your own muesli. Read the ingredients list on all products that you’re considering buying.
7Stock up on healthy snacks. Replace sugary snacks with fruit, vegetable sticks,nuts, and other healthy items. Fresh, seasonal fruit can satisfy a craving for something sweet. Salted nuts can be a good substitute for salty snacks like chips, but they provide increased nutrients like of fiber, healthy fat, and protein.
8Eat healthier fats. There is a common misconception that all fat is bad. It’s true that deep-fried fast food is an unhealthy source of fat. However, salmon and nuts have a high fat content that offer a variety of health benefits. Avocado is another food that’s high in healthy fat. It’s more important to try avoid processed fats, hydrogenated, saturated or mostly saturated (especially avoid trans fats), and vegetable oils than to cut fat entirely out of your diet. Look for unsaturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated fats instead.
9Reserve treats for special occasions. It may seem like punishment to cut all sugar out of your life forever. However, you can still indulge in the foods you like from time to time without derailing all of your eating habits. You may even find that saving your favorite sweet treats for special occasions, rather than indulging in them daily, can make the experience of eating the treats even sweeter.
10Do not think of your eating habits as a “diet.” “Diets” tend to fail because they’re short term and have an “end” point. Thinking of your new way of eating as changing your eating habits rather than a temporary “diet” can help you maintain the new habits with less effort. You may also find that you will lose weight with less effort or stress.
- Keep in mind that the goal of being healthy is lifelong, and remember that even extremely overweight people have lowered their diabetes risk by 70 percent just by losing 5 percent of their total weight.
11Cut down on nighttime eating. If you are pre-diabetic, you may need to avoid eating anything other than a light protein snack near bedtime. You should also limit your beverage consumption to water only, cutting out alcohol or drinks with sugar or caffeine.
- If you feel hungry after dinner, try eating a low calorie and carbohydrate food that will have less of an impact on your blood sugar. Some options include:
- Celery sticks
- Baby carrots
- Green bell pepper slices
- A handful of cranberries
- Four almonds (or similar nuts),
- A cup of light or air-popped popcorn
- If you feel hungry after dinner, try eating a low calorie and carbohydrate food that will have less of an impact on your blood sugar. Some options include:
12Avoid emotional eating. Try to differentiate eating as emotional response from eating due to actual physical hunger. Remember that physical hunger can be satisfied by almost any food, while emotional hunger often manifests as a craving for one specific food.
13Eat slowly to avoid overeating. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to send a signal to your brain that you are full. In that lag, you may eat too much: far more than you need.
- Consider seeing a psychologist or a dietitian if you feel that you cannot control emotional eating on your own.
Changing Your Lifestyle
1Prioritize exercise as a means of losing weight. It has been shown by the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) that people who lost 5 to 7 percent of their body weight and exercised for a half hour each day 5 days a week cut their risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent.  Whatever your weight, exercise is an important part of keeping healthy. Excessive body fat hinders the breakdown use of glucose, which is essential for energy. Even a mere 30 minutes of heart-rate-elevating exercise per day can help you avoid diabetes and maintain a healthy weight.
2Take a walk during your lunch break. If you feel as though you don’t have time to exercise, try walking for half an hour during your lunch break for 5 days a week. This can be a way to “sneak in” exercise.
3Exercise after work. You can avoid the traffic rush hour by visiting the gym or going for a brisk walk or jog outdoors for 45 minutes to an hour after you get off work. You may arrive home a little later, but you will feel more relaxed because of the exercise the reduced stress level from avoiding rush-hour traffic.
4Take a dog for a walk. Dogs make it easier to exercise and are a form of responsibility that obliged you to get out. If you don’t have a dog (or don’t want to get one), offer to walk a neighbor’s dog.
5Walk to your local shops instead of driving. Unless you’ve got heavy packages to carry, walking locally makes good sense. Recruit a friend or family member to join you for company; conversing while walking makes the walk seem shorter.
6Listen to music while you exercise. Load your iPod or MP3 player with your favorite upbeat music. Give yourself a great excuse to walk or run while listening to your music selection. You can even create a playlist that mirrors your workout, with a slow “warm-up” song, 30-minutes of upbeat walking/jogging music, then a 3-4 minute “cool-down” song. Using a timed playlist can help you ensure that your exercise session is the appropriate length.
7Reduce your stress levels. Stress is linked to high glucose levels that can lead to diabetes. This is because when your body recognizes that you are stressed, it primes itself for a “fight or flight” response that throws off your hormone levels. This hormonal change can also increase your chances of gaining weight. To reduce your stress:
- Identify why you are stressed. Figuring out why you are stressed will help you address and reduce that stress factor and lower your stress levels.
- Learn to say no. Taking on more than you can handle can lead to high stress levels. Recognize your limits and learn to say no to things or ask for help if you need it.
- Express your emotions. Sometimes talking to someone about your stress will help you to feel less stressed. The person might also be able to see your situation from an outsider’s perspective that will help you to find a solution.
- Manage your time well. Learn to prioritize things and know when other things can be pushed to the side. Try to estimate how long a task will take you and plan your day out accordingly.
8Get plenty of sleep. Adults need at least 6, but preferably 7 or more hours of sleep every night for recovery time for the nerves and all other systems to settle and rest. Getting enough sleep is essential to maintaining blood sugar and blood pressure, both of which are related to diabetes.
- If you are unable to sleep at night, try reducing your “screen time” before bed, sleeping in a dark room with a noise machine, and limiting your caffeine consumption during the day.
- Talk to your doctor about medicinal or herbal sleep aids if you are still unable to sleep well at night.
1Differentiate between the different types of diabetes. Diabetes affects the way thatblood sugar (glucose) is processed in your body. An essential energy source, glucose is present in the bloodstream after digesting food. Insulin, normally produced by the pancreas, assists the glucose out of the blood and distributes it to the liver cells, muscles, and fat, where it is turned into usable energy for the body. Diabetes is identified as Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes: This condition involves destruction of more than 90 percent of the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, causing the pancreas to cease making insulin or to make very little. Type 1 diabetes tends to occur prior to the age of 30 and it may involve environmental factors and genetic predisposition.
- Type 2 diabetes: While the pancreas continues to produce insulin, or even higher levels of insulin, the body develops a resistance to the insulin, causing the insulin to not be used properly for the body’s needs and blood sugar levels remain consistently too high. While this type of diabetes can occur in children and adolescents, it usually begins in people over 30 and becomes more common as people age. Being overweight is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes: This type of diabetes develops in some women during pregnancy. Left undiagnosed and/or untreated, serious side effects can injure the mother and affect the unborn child. Having gestational diabetes that resolves after delivery increases your chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes at some point of your life.
2Know the dangers of Type 2 Diabetes. Understanding how diabetes can disrupt your life can help motivate you to make the necessary lifestyle and diet changes to prevent the disease. Some of the complications from Type 2 Diabetes can be quite severe. Possible complications include:
- Lowered blood supply to the skin and nerves
- Fatty substances and blood clots clogging blood vessels (called Atherosclerosis)
- Heart failure, heart attack, or stroke
- Damage to the eyes, which may cause permanently poor vision
- Renal (kidney) failure
- Nerve damage (with numbness and pain and loss of function)
- Inflammation, infections and skin breakdown especially of the feet
- Angina (heart pain)
3Recognize Type 2 Diabetes risk factors that are controllable. Some of the factors that increase your risk for developing diabetes are within your control. Risk factors for diabetes that can be controlled with diet and lifestyle changes include:
- Obesity: Based on body mass index, a BMI over 29 increases your odds of diabetes to one in four. Losing weight can drastically reduce your odds of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
- A diagnosis of heart disease or high cholesterol: Cardiovascular risks include high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, and high LDL cholesterol, and a study showed that one in four people in Europe suffering from these risk factors were also pre-diabetics. Diet and exercise can both help reduce your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol.
- Eating a diet high in sugar, cholesterol, fat, and processed food: Diet is tied closely to diabetes. Focus on eating healthier foods.
- Irregular or no exercise: Exercising less than 3 times per week increases your risk for diabetes. Work on integrating physical activity into your daily life.
4Acknowledge risk factors for diabetes that you cannot control. There are some risk factors for developing Type 2 Diabetes that are not within your control. However, being aware of these factors can help you assess your overall risk for developing the disease. Risk factors include:
- Being older than age 45: Note that pre-menopausal women are probably helped by the levels of estrogen, which helps to clear away fatty acids that cause insulin resistance, and helps insulin absorb glucose more rapidly.
- Having a parent, sibling, or other family member who has or did have Type 2 diabetes: This can indicate a family gene predisposing you to diabetes.
- Being of Hispanic, African American, Native American, Asian, or Pacific Islander descent: These subgroups are at almost double the risk of white Americans.
- Experiencing gestational diabetes during pregnancy: Up to 40 percent of women who experienced gestational diabetes are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Being born with a low birth weight: A low birth weight increases your chances of developing diabetes by 23 percent for babies born under 5.5 pounds and by 76 percent for babies under 5 pounds.
5Act early. High blood sugar can be corrected before lasting damage sets in. If you have the risk factors associated with diabetes, it is important to get regular blood or urine screening tests and to respond by controlling your lifestyle factors. If tests reveal that you have pre-diabetes, you have an increased chance of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the future. Pre-diabetes is a part of metabolic syndrome which is “a group of risk factors — high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat.” While such a diagnosis can be frightening, it’s also an opportunity to take back your health and to slow, reverse, or avoid Type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes.
- Pre-diabetes exists where your blood glucose is higher than normal. It’s a key indicator of metabolic breakdown taking place, which indicates a movement towards Type 2 Diabetes.
- Pre-diabetes is reversible, but left ignored, the American Diabetes Association warns that your odds for getting Type 2 diabetes within a decade are almost 100 percent.
- The CDC recommends that anyone aged 45 or over should be tested for diabetes especially if you’re overweight., and people under 45 should be tested if they are overweight and have any other risk factor for diabetes.
6Return for testing. After 6 months of improving your diet and exercise habits, return for a test to see how your blood sugar levels have changed.
- Always keep monitoring with your doctor. Follow your doctor’s advice. In rare cases, your doctor may recommend taking medication such as Metformin, to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
- If you need help, consider speaking to a registered dietitian who can assist you with developing a meal plan.