How to Prevent Diabetes: The Top Ten List

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • If we stick with the current trend, half of Americans will have diabetes by 2020, according to recent estimates.

    The good news? About 90 percent of all type 2 diabetes cases can be prevented through dietary modifications, weight loss, and more physical activity. Again, 9 out of 10 people you see with type 2 diabetes could have prevented it using inexpensive lifestyle changes.


    Here is a "Top Ten" list of prevention strategies:

    1. Watch your weight. This is the number one strategy in reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. Excess weight contributes to insulin resistance, which often then leads to full-blown diabetes.

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    2. Be active. Regular exercise is a weapon against this deadly disease. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity five (or even more) days a week. Don't like exercise? Keep trying new activities until you find a few you enjoy. Our bodies are meant to keep moving. Exercise isn't some weird option you can take or leave. It's mandatory.

    3. Avoid bad carbs (the high glycemic carbohydrates). These can lead to more rapid spikes in blood glucose and insulin levels. Over time, this can lead to insulin resistance which then may lead directly to type 2 diabetes. These include cookies, cake, candy bars and, well, most foods you'd buy while filling up your car.

    4. Bring on the good low to moderate glycemic index sources such as vegetables, beans and legumes, and whole grains. Eat as many veggies as you can, aiming for at least five servings a day. Fruit is good, too, but shoot for the lower glycemic varieties and eat fewer fruits than vegetables.

    5. When picking vegetables to eat, go green. Get your leafy greens! Regularly consuming these foods has been shown to protect people from developing type 2 diabetes.

    6. Watch your fats; avoid trans fat, limit saturated fats and go for monounsaturated and unsaturated fats. In short: olive oil and salmon - yes. Butter and snack cakes - not so much.

    7. Get your protein. This is a one-two punch. Protein causes blood sugar to rise more slowly and stay more consistent. This helps you stay full longer. Consuming fatty fish as your protein source gives the added boost of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Try to limit red meat to no more than two servings a week.

    8. Up your fiber. Studies have shown, for both men and women, that getting more fiber can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. This may work by improving the body's sensitivity to insulin.

    The above tips for weight, diet, and exercise may well be the most important. Participants in the Diabetes Prevention Program who followed a healthy diet and exercised 30 minutes a day and lost an average of 15 pounds were nearly 60 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes over three years than people not following this plan.

    9. Bone up on your supplements. One study involving more than 80,000 nurses found that women taking at least 1,200 mg of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D daily lowered their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by one-third.

    10. Finally: just quit already. Be a quitter and encourage everyone around you to be a quitter too. Quitting smoking goes a long way toward reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

  • For more tips on how to avoid costly chronic disease, check out The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia Haines, M.D., and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H.

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Published On: May 04, 2011