25.8 million Americans have diabetes - 8.3 percent of the U.S. population. Of these, 7 million do not know they have the disease. If current trends continue, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 people will have Type 2 diabetes by 2050. Is there any good news about an epidemic that's out of control? Many health professionals believe that diabetes is an almost totally avoidable disease (type 2). It's estimated that 92 percent of the cases could be avoided by diet and lifestyle.
What's Your Risk? Many people who have pre-diabetes - and many others who have diabetes - don't even know it. The only way to find out is to get your blood sugar tested (at least every three years starting at age 45). Your risk is higher if you:
- Are age 45 or older
- Are overweight
- Are African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic/Latino-American, Pacific Islander, or American Indian.
- Have a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes.
- Have high blood pressure (above 140 over 90)
- Have low HDL ("good") cholesterol (less than 40 for men; less than 50 for women)
- Have high triglycerides (250 or more)
- Had diabetes when pregnant or gave birth to a large baby (over 9 pounds)
- Are active fewer than three times a week
- Control Your Weight. Excess weight is the single most important cause of type 2 diabetes. Being overweight increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes seven fold. Losing 7 to 10 percent of your current weight can cut your chances of developing type 2 diabetes in half. Losing any excess weight - and keeping it off - is the best defense again diabetes.
- Get Moving - and Turn Off the Television Inactivity promotes type 2 diabetes. Working your muscles more often and making them work harder improves their ability to use insulin and absorb glucose. This puts less stress on your insulin-making cells. Long hours of hot, sweaty exercise aren't necessary to reap this benefit. Walking briskly for a half hour every day reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30 percent. Limit the time you spend sitting at work, at home, or in between.
- Tune Up Your Diet Four dietary changes can have a big impact on the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Choose whole grains and whole grain products over highly processed carbohydrates. Whole grains don't have a magical nutrient that fights diabetes and improves health. It's the entire package - elements intact and working together - that's important. The bran and fiber in whole grains make it more difficult for digestive enzymes to break down the starches into glucose. This leads to lower, slower increases in blood sugar and insulin, and a lower glycemic index. As a result, they stress the body's insulin-making machinery less, and may help prevent type 2 diabetes. Whole grains are also rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that may help reduce the risk of diabetes.
- Skip the sugary drinks and choose water. When it comes to diabetes, sweet beverages seem to be a double-whammy. Their high-fructose corn syrup and other sugars increase the demand for insulin and have a high glycemic load. The sugar you sip may add flab more than the sugar you chew. Liquid calories don't seem to lead to satiety and the reduction in subsequent food intake that you might have with solid calories. It's easy to take in a large amount so easily. Think your drink.
- Choose good fats instead of bad fats. The types of fats in your diet can also affect the development of diabetes. Good fats, such as the polyunsaturated fats found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds can help ward off type 2 diabetes. Trans fats do just the opposite. These bad fats are found in many margarines, packaged baked goods, fried foods in fast-food restaurants, and any product that lists "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" on the label.
- Limit red meat and avoid processed meat; choose nuts, whole grains, poultry, or fish instead. Why do red meat and processed red meat appear to boost the risk for diabetes? It may be that the high iron content of red meat diminishes the insulin's effectiveness or damages the cells that product insulin; the high levels of sodium and nitrites (preservatives) in processed red meats may also be to blame.
Smokers are roughly 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers, and
heavy smokers have an even higher risk.
5. Alcohol Now and Then May Help.
A growing body of evidence links moderate alcohol consumption with reduced risk of
heart disease. The same may be true for type 2 diabetes. 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. If you already drink alcohol, the key
is to keep your consumption in the moderate range, as higher amounts of alcohol
could increase diabetes risk. If you don't drink alcohol, there's no need to start - you
can get the same benefits by losing weight, exercising, and changing your eating
The bottom line to prevent type 2 diabetes: Keep your weight - and especially your waist - under control, and spend more time on your feet than on your seat!