Since the 1980’s, the percentage of Americans with diabetes has increased an astounding 167%. This number continues to baffle experts today. At the same time, the obesity rate has increased from roughly 13 percent of the American population to 34 percent- about 80 to 90 percent of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are also diagnosed as obese.
While genetics also come into play when it concerns diabetes, there is no question that obesity is a huge contributing factor. As Americans have become heavier, the propensity of people with type 2 diabetes has increased as well.
Experts agree that the risk of obesity and diabetes are definitely correlated. Studies have shown that even being slightly overweight increases the risk of diabetes five times, and being seriously obese increases your risk by 60 times. The good news is that type 2 diabetes (which accounts for about 90 percent of those with the disease and usually affects adults) is largely preventable. And managing your weight – which includes modifying your diet and increasing your physical activity – is the most important thing you can do to prevent development of the disease.
There are many reasons why it’s important to take preventative measures to avoid diabetes. In addition to being the nation’s seventh leading cause of death – over 200,000 Americans die each year due to diabetes-related complications – it’s a prime cause of kidney failure, blindness, non-traumatic limb amputations, heart disease and stroke.
With type 2 diabetes, the body at first overproduces insulin to keep blood sugar normal. Over time, however, this causes the body to lose its ability to continue to produce enough insulin for normal blood sugar levels. As a result, the blood sugar levels rise to unhealthy numbers. Being overweight puts added pressure on the body’s ability to properly control blood sugar using insulin.
If you already have diabetes, causing your body to become resistant to insulin means you will need to take in even more insulin to get sugar into your cells. And if you don’t have diabetes, the prolonged effects of the insulin resistance can eventually cause you to develop the disease.
So how can I prevent it?
If you or a loved one suffers from diabetes or is at risk, there are several steps that can reduce the severity of the disease or prevent it all together.
Weight loss: Even a small weight loss – as little as five to 10 percent – can significantly reduce the likelihood of getting the disease or, if you have it, reduce the amount of medication you will need. In particular, fat around your abdomen puts one at increased risk of diabetes. This is because it releases chemicals that can upset the body’s cardiovascular and metabolic systems.
Diet: A high fiber, low carbohydrate diet and 20 – 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day can make a significant difference. This may mean changing your current diet by eliminating trans fats, lowering your sodium intake, replacing sugar-laden juices and sodas, and emphasizing healthy fats and oils. This may also include replacing a diet heavy in red meat with one that includes whole grains, beans, lean protein, and fruits and vegetables.
Exercise: Stretching and strengthening muscles can improve one’s ability to produce insulin and absorb glucose. However, long and difficult workouts are not always the most successful tactic for elderly patients. Taking brisk walks for 30 minutes every day can greatly reduce one’s risk for diabetes.
Moderate consumption of alcohol: Don’t assume that in order to prevent diabetes you need to avoid alcohol at all costs. Studies have actually proven that moderately consuming alcohol can actually increase insulin efficiency and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. This equals to about 1 serving of alcohol a day for women and 2 for men.
Avoid tobacco: On average, smokers are 50 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who avoid tobacco. Those who consider themselves heavy smokers are at an even higher risk. If you do smoke, look into some techniques or programs that can help you quit. If you aren’t a smoker, avoid areas when possible where you can come in contact with second hand smoke.
By following these simple steps and making healthy lifestyle choices, it can be an easy road to diabetes prevention. For more information about diabetes and how to prevent it, check out these links below:
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