How to Avoid Getting Diabetes: The Top 12 List

  1. Limit your refined, processed carbohydrate and sugar intake- Regular intake of sugar in any form, whether it is high fructose corn syrup or natural cane sugar, is sure to eventually cause insulin resistance and raise your blood sugars.  Refined, processed carbs like white bread and white rice have been stripped of their nutrients and can cause blood sugar elevations.
  2. Avoid soda- As you may already be aware, sugar sweetened soda causes weight gain and increases the risk of developing diabetes, but did you know that diet soda can be just as harmful for your health? One large study found diet soda consumption increased  the risk of developing diabetes. Diet soda consumption has even been tied to decreased kidney function in women. So, stay away from all sodas if you want to lower your risk of diabetes.  There’s no such thing as healthy soda.
  3. Get enough sleep every night: 7-8 hours is optimal- Did you know that sleeping less than 7-8 hours each nigh has been linked to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease?
  4. Try to keep stress levels down- Stress has been associated with an increased risk of diabetes, particularly the daily “job strain.” So do what you can to improve the way you deal with this stress if it can’t be avoided. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, getting regular massages, and relaxing baths can all be helpful in dealing with stress.
  5. Get regular exercise- Staying sedentary will set you on the road to developing diabetes. Get a pedometer to gauge your activity level.  If you’re getting less than 5000 steps/day, you’re sedentary. Your goal should be >10,000 steps/day. If  you’re not reaching this goal, slowly increase your daily steps over the course of several weeks to reach your new goal.  Also, getting at least 150 minutes of moderate- intensity aerobic exercise per week is important. This can be done with 30 minutes of brisk walking 5 times a week. 75 minutes per week of vigorous- intensity aerobic exercise can be done instead.  Even shorter, more frequent bouts of exercise are good for you. Remember, when it comes to exercise, every little bit helps. If you haven’t exercise in a while, it is important to start slow and get approval from your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
  6. Stay away from fried food- A recent study looking at >100,000 subjects found that those who ate fried food 4-6 times/week had a much greater risk of developing diabetes.
  7. Eat your fiber and veggies- Fiber does not raise blood sugar levels, and slows food digestion and absorption. It can also help lower cholesterol levels and make you feel full.   Shoot for 20-38 grams/day (this varies depending on your age and gender).  Vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Aim for at least 5 servings per day.
  8. Watch your weight- Obesity is one of the most well-known risk factors for diabetes. Not just weight gain, but rate of weight gain is an important factor to consider.
  9. Keep your blood pressure under control- High blood pressure can increase the risk of diabetes by 2-3 times. It also increases the risk of heart disease.
  10. If you smoke, quit- Smoking can also contribute to the risk of diabetes. The more you smoke, the higher the risk of developing this disease.
  11. Manage cholesterol levels- Abnormal cholesterol levels are also linked to a higher risk of diabetes. Your goal should be to increase the good HDL cholesterol to >35 mg/dL , and keep triglycerides under 250 mg/dL.
  12. Use your spices- A number of spices, including cinnamon, rosemary, Mexican oregano, and marjoram can affect blood sugar levels.

There’s no time like the present

Whether you have a family history of diabetes, have gained weight, or have been told that you have prediabetes, or even diabetes, there are a number of steps you can take to become healthier and improve your disease or even avoid getting diabetes.  Following these 12 tips can help keep you healthier.  There’s no better time than the present to start making positive changes.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Benjamin J. Delong