5 Healthy Habits To Outsmart Diabetes

Learn how you can protect yourself against the often preventable type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is on the rise worldwide, and our unhealthy lifestyle habits are mostly to blame, according to health experts. "Simply put, we're moving our bodies less, eating more, and eating more of the wrong foods," says Dr. David Nathan, diabetes chief at Massachusetts General Hospital and coauthor of Beating Diabetes. The good news: As many as 80 percent of cases are preventable. Find out how you can protect yourself now.

1. Steer clear of "western" diets

"A 'western' dietary pattern that includes more red meat, French fries, high fat consumption, refined grains, and sweets is associated with increased diabetes risk," warns Nathan.

When consumed, these high-calorie foods are quickly broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in sharp spikes in blood sugar. In response, your pancreas produces high amounts of insulin, which can lead to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes that occurs when the body doesn't respond to this hormone properly.

2. Increase your fiber intake

One way to prevent insulin resistance is to up your fiber consumption. Researchers found that people who made no other dietary changes except to substitute whole-grain breads, cereals, rice, and pasta for refined versions lowered their fasting insulin levels by 10 percent over a six-week study period.

In other words: "People who eat whole grains are less likely to develop diabetes," says Sandra Woodruff, registered dietician and coauthor of The Complete Diabetes Prevention Plan. "One reason may be that these foods are rich in magnesium, which is associated with improved insulin sensitivity. Another reason may be that people who eat plenty of whole grains and other high-fiber foods tend to be thinner than people who eat diets high in refined carbohydrates."

How much fiber should you eat? Health experts recommend eating at least 25 to 35 grams daily. "Most people get only half this amount," Woodruff points out, so up your intake by including more complex carbs such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain products in your diet.

3. Get active

Physical activity not only helps you lose weight and maintain weight loss by increasing energy output, "exercise also prevents diabetes by increasing muscle sensitivity to insulin," explains Nathan.

To ensure you're getting enough exercise, perform moderate-intensity activity for at least thirty minutes per day, fives days per week, advises Nathan. If you can't fit in a long workout, break it up into smaller sessions spread throughout the day.

4. Lose excess weight

A mere 5 to 10 percent reduction in weight, coupled with 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per day is enough to reduce diabetes risk by 58 percent, according to a diabetes prevention study in Finland.

One important key to successful weight loss is to decrease the amount of fat in the diet. "Fat carries more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein," adds Nathan, " and it is relatively easy for a person to identify fatty foods and limit them." Complement your healthy diet with an active lifestyle by making regular exercise a part of your life. "For most people, regular aerobic exercise will help to control your weight and to reduce your risk of diabetes," says Nathan.

5. Learn to relax

"Stress can cause the body to release various hormones that enable to body to cope the 'fight-or-flight response.' One of these hormones, cortisol, triggers appetite and favors fat storage around the belly," explains Woodruff, and some experts believe that cortisol may be involved in the development of diabetes by interfering with the release of insulin.

To manage stress, find ways to simplify your life, learn to relax, and deal with emotional issues so they don't block your weight-loss program. This may be as important as nutrition and exercise in the long run.













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