Diet Tips to Help Prevent Diabetes

The United States is in the midst of an obesity crisis, and one side effect is that more Americans than ever have diabetes. This disease is very manageable, and most people who have it can live a relatively normal life. However, left unchecked, diabetes can cause numerous health problems, including heart disease, bone disorders, limb amputation and even death. It is estimated that approximately 24 million Americans have diabetes, and about 6 million of these people may not know that they have it.

Diabetes is preventable, and you can take the following steps to ensure that you don’t develop the disease. 

Type 1 and Type 2

Diabetes is categorized in two types. Type 1, often referred to as Juvenile Diabetes, tends to develop during childhood. According to the American Diabetes Association, “Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease.” Type 1 diabetes requires insulin therapy and regular blood glucose monitoring. It occurs when the body doesn’t produce insulin, which helps the body break down sugar. 

Most Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association defines type 2 diabetes as follows: “Diabetes is a problem with your body that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. …If you have type 2 diabetes your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.”

Type 2 Diabetes Is Preventable

There are many factors that contribute to the development of diabetes, but the most prevalent risk factors include genetic predisposition and unhealthy lifestyle choices. According to a study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “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.” 

Experts agree that the easiest and most effective way to prevent type 2 diabetes is through diet and exercise. By eating a well balanced diet that is low in sugar and sodium, you can reduce your risk of developing the disease. The National Diabetes Education Program gives tips on how to manage your diet to prevent developing type 2 diabetes. “Portion size is the amount of food you eat, such as 1 cup of fruit or 6 ounces of meat. If you are trying to eat smaller portions, eat a half of a bagel instead of a whole bagel or have a 3-ounce hamburger instead of a 6-ounce hamburger. Three ounces is about the size of your fist or a deck of cards.” The site also suggests drinking more water with your food and sharing desserts to reduce your overall portion size. 

Type 2 Diabetes Can Be Managed

If you have type 2 diabetes, you may exhibit some of the following symptoms, as stated by the Mayo Clinic: “Increased thirst and frequent urination, increased hunger, weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing sores or frequent infections, and areas of darkened skin.” If you exhibit any or a combination of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor to determine whether or not you have diabetes. Some cases can be managed with a healthy diet and exercise plan, but diagnosing and treating the disease early reduces the risk of complications. 

If you’ve got a family history of diabetes, or if your diet and exercise habits are not the healthiest, you may be at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Adopting healthy eating and exercise habits can go a long way toward preventing the disease and enabling you to live a long and healthy life.