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How To Lower Your Risk of Diabetes

More than 24 million Americans have diabetes. It’s estimated that approximately six million of those don’t even know they have it. Because November is American Diabetes Month, your primary care doctors in Delray Beach, Florida, at Cohen Medical Associates would like to focus on ways you can prevent this common and deadly disease.

Facts on diabetes

Untreated, diabetes can lead to nerve damage, circulation problems, and a higher risk of heart disease. It’s the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure among adults, and overall is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) explains that in type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. “At first, the pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time, your pancreas isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose levels normal.”

Genetic risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include being overweight or having a parent, brother, or sister with the disease. In addition, having gestational diabetes during pregnancy increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes within five to 10 years, says the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Your child may also be more likely to become obese and develop type 2 diabetes later in life.


What you can do

According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), “Although the genes you inherit may influence the development of type 2 diabetes, they take a back seat to behavioral and lifestyle factors. Data from the Nurses’ Health Study suggest that 90 percent of type 2 diabetes in women can be attributed to five such factors: excess weight, lack of exercise, a less-than-healthy diet, smoking, and abstaining from alcohol.”

Whether you have a genetic predisposition to diabetes as discussed above, or you have prediabetes, this does not necessarily mean you will eventually proceed to type 2 diabetes. Here are some steps from the ADA that you can take to lower your risk.

1. Get moving

You’ve often heard us recommend exercise to improve your health. Prevention of diabetes is one of the benefits of regular physical activity. Any type of physical activity is better than none, but the best way to lower your risk is a combination of vigorous aerobic activity and resistance training. This can help you lose weight, as well as lower your blood sugar levels and boost your insulin sensitivity, thus helping keep your blood sugar within normal range.

2. Eat right

Cutting out sugar, processed foods, and excess carbohydrates can not only improve your blood sugar levels, but it can also lower your risk of heart disease and help you lose weight. You should introduce as much fiber into your diet as possible by consuming such foods as fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, and nuts.

3. Go for the grains

Studies haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact reason, but consumption of whole grains seems to help maintain blood sugar levels, thus reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. Aim for whole grains in at least half of the grains you consume.

4. Lose weight

The previous three tips can’t help but reduce weight and overall body fat, but talk to us if you’re not losing as much as you’d like. Fad diets aren’t the way to go; we can help you devise a sensible eating plan that you can live with. And keep in mind that every lost pound improves your insulin sensitivity. The Mayo Clinic reports that participants in one large study who lost about seven percent of body weight and exercised regularly reduced their risk of developing diabetes by nearly 60 percent.

5. Quit smoking

In addition to its many other health problems, smoking has been found to increase the risk of diabetes by between 45 and 60 percent, depending on the number of cigarettes smoked daily. Quit for your life.

6. Enjoy a bit of the grape

Although not appearing on the ADA’s tips for diabetes prevention, the HSPH reports, “Moderate amounts of alcohol—up to a drink a day for women, up to two drinks a day for men—increases the efficiency of insulin at getting glucose inside cells. And some studies indicate that moderate alcohol consumption decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes.” This doesn’t mean you need to start drinking if you don’t imbibe already; the previous steps can accomplish the same thing. It does mean that moderate alcohol consumption may help lower your risk.

Diabetes can wreak havoc with every system in your body. It’s worth the effort to try to lower your risk of ever developing it. Please contact us if you have any questions about the prevention and treatment of this often-deadly disease.

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