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Home arrow Health arrow Diabetes arrow How to Prevent Diabetes? Surprising Habits to Lower Your Diabetes Risk

How to Prevent Diabetes? Surprising Habits to Lower Your Diabetes Risk

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
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Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: November 28, 2023
10 min read 473 Views 0 Comments
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Mastering healthy habits: your roadmap to a diabetes-free life

how to prevent diabetes

You’ve probably heard that type 2 diabetes is a chronic, life-changing condition that has no definitive cure.

A person with a risk of type 2 diabetes with little information may panic at the uncertainty of the treatment and lifestyle modifications they have to face.

The adoption of a modern lifestyle, often characterized by sedentary habits and diets high in sugars and processed foods, can significantly influence the health of many Americans. It is, therefore, essential for individuals to be proactive in making informed daily choices that promote better health and well-being.

The importance of understanding diabetes in all forms and learning prevention strategies cannot be overstated. Can we enhance our quality of life by arming ourselves with this knowledge in addition to avoiding a diagnosis? Then, how can we prevent diabetes effectively?

There are several types of diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin. This type of diabetes is usually diagnosed before the age of 30, especially in childhood or adolescence.

In type 2 diabetes, the primary issue is often not insufficient insulin production but rather the body’s cells becoming resistant to insulin. However, it should be emphasized that this insulin resistance, rather than insufficient insulin production, is the main issue in the early stages of type 2 diabetes. 

This resistance hinders efficient glucose absorption by the cells, despite the presence of insulin. This type of diabetes is associated with factors such as overweight, lack of physical activity, and family history of diabetes.

There are other less common types of diabetes, such as gestational diabetes, which is diagnosed during pregnancy.  After pregnancy, gestational diabetes often resolves, but it increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a silent disease that can go unnoticed for years. When symptoms appear they can vary in intensity in each individual. Some symptoms that may occur are:

  • Increased urination (polyuria)
  • Increased appetite (polyphagia)
  • Increased thirst (polydipsia)
  • Decreased energy
  • Vision problems
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Weight loss unrelated to diet

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes

Today, unhealthy lifestyles and being sedentary are the main factors for developing type 2 diabetes. This means that your daily decisions have a direct impact on your health.

For this reason, it is important to know the risk factors to prevent its onset. According to the information provided by the Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the risk factors may include:

  • > 45 years
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity or overweight
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Heart disease
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Family members with type 2 diabetes
  • Diabetes during pregnancy

How to Prevent Diabetes?

Prevention and disease control needs a comprehensive approach. Efforts to change lifestyle and have a healthy body weight are necessary, especially for those with risk of type 2 diabetes.

Balanced diet

High glucose spikes occur repeatedly in a healthy person who usually eats refined sugars in large amounts. These glucose peaks cause an increase in insulin secretion in order to mobilize insulin into the cells.

When this action is repeated over a long period of time, insulin becomes inefficient and does not respond to glucose. This is known as insulin resistance and increases the risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes if not controlled.

It is advisable to follow a prediabetes diet high in fiber and foods low in sugar to ensure that glucose intake is slowed down. With high-fiber foods, glucose is obtained gradually during digestion, which also promotes satiety to help lose weight.

Consult your nutritionist to know the best foods for diabetes and get a personalized nutrition plan. We encourage you to avoid fad diets that can worsen your condition due to an imbalance of nutrients.

Proper guidance makes it easier to lose weight without sacrificing nutrient intake.

Physical activity

Exercise and insulin are closely related. Muscle contraction stimulates the absorption of glucose by the cells for use as energy during physical activity.

This means that increasing the amount of exercise improves insulin sensitivity. In addition, strength exercise for muscle mass gain is favorable because more muscle means more glucose uptake.

Regular exercise will help you lose weight and fight chronic inflammation, both of which increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

However, it is part of a broader lifestyle approach and not a standalone solution for preventing or managing diabetes.

Weight management

High body weight is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes as it is linked to many other factors such as inflammation, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and increased visceral fat.

Visceral fat is a health hazard because it is stored around the organs in the abdominal area, releasing fatty acids into the blood. In addition, excess fat behaves like an organ, releasing inflammatory hormones that affect appetite regulation and insulin sensitivity.

The Role of Regular Health Check-Ups

If you believe you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes because of your family history or current lifestyle, it is important that you take action as soon as possible.

Prevention is the tool that will allow you to preserve your health. If you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, you should have your blood glucose checked at least once a year.

Understanding the numbers: what do blood sugar levels mean?

Diabetes management requires regular blood glucose testing, and having a glucometer at home can help. As these home devices can sometimes produce inaccurate results, it’s also important to get periodic lab tests to ensure your glucometer readings are accurate.

The results may be expressed in different ranges and values in each laboratory. Remember that healthy people may have abnormal results, but this does not mean they have diabetes. 

In these cases, you should repeat the measurements 3 more times on different days to check if your glucose is elevated.

Normal fasting glucose levels, according to the American Diabetes Association, should be less than 100 mg/dL. A result that reflects between 100 to 125 mg/dL could be considered prediabetes.

A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can be made by obtaining one reading of fasting blood glucose >126 mg/dL, a random blood glucose >200 mg/dL, or an HbA1c >6.5%. Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is also a method used to confirm diagnosis.

The Relationship Between Mental Health and Diabetes

The body naturally has regulatory processes, including stimulating the liver to produce glucose in times of stress, as glucose is needed as an energy source. This stimulation occurs even when blood glucose is elevated.

When stress becomes a chronic problem, the repeated action of stress hormones on blood sugar affects cell transport and utilization, leading to insulin resistance.

Stress management becomes a fundamental step in the prevention of diabetes because despite following a diabetes diet and keeping your blood levels under control, cortisol can affect your blood glucose to dangerous levels.

Some studies show how exposure to elevated glucose for long periods of time can damage blood vessels leading to life-threatening cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease.

In addition, taking care of your mental health is important not only to prevent diabetes but also to know how to manage diabetes in case you are diagnosed with this disease.

Lifestyle changes and nutritional adjustments can be overwhelming and stressful for those who are just beginning this journey, and management with medical treatment requires conscious adherence.

Techniques for stress management and its importance in preventing diabetes

If there is one thing that affects us all, it is time management and adherence to healthy routines. A fundamental step in diabetes prevention is to find space for recreation, rest and mindful breathing.

Some activities that can help you manage day-to-day stress include:

  • Exercise through an activity you enjoy. While it is difficult to include exercise in your routine from one day to the next, gradually increasing physical activity will give you the energy to move daily without risk of injury.
  • Meditating is always a good idea because it allows you to pause to breathe and calm your mind.
  • Resume activities and hobbies that you had abandoned, such as sports, drawing, practicing new healthy recipes and meeting with nice people that fill you with good vibes.
  • Consider counseling if you are feeling very busy. Professional psychological help is also essential in the management and prevention of chronic diseases.
  • Plan all the activities of your day, from work to meals, to make sure nothing overtakes you. 
  • Healthy eating will allow you to feel good all day long as they promote intestinal health thanks to their high fiber and nutrient content.

Practical Tips and Easy Changes to Implement

Implementing healthy habits for better health is a challenge, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) contains a detailed guide on this subject where it highlights step by step the difficulties you may encounter along the way and how to solve them.

Starting today, you can implement small changes to improve your health lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes. With practice you will see that you can fit them into your routine and make them part of your healthy lifestyle.

These changes are focused on preventing diabetes, achieve a healthy weight and prevent other metabolic diseases that can affect your wellbeing in the long run.

#1 Embrace a plant-based dinner once a week

Choose a day of the week to make a special dinner for you and your family that includes a variety of vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. You can take a look at some diabetes apps with a large library of recipes that you can practice to add more fiber, complex carbohydrates and micronutrients to your diet.

#2 Incorporate fermented foods into your diet

One of the most relevant characteristics of the consumption of fermented foods to improve intestinal health is the production of butyrate, a fatty acid related to the regulation of metabolism and insulin sensitization, important factors in the prevention of diabetes.

Some foods you can add to your diet to obtain these benefits are kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented carrots and fermented bell peppers.

#3 Practice mindful diet

Sometimes it is difficult to give up some foods that you are used to but that are unhealthy. The best thing you can do is to learn to see food as what it is: a source of nutrition and energy and not as a reward in times of anxiety.

Improving your relationship with food will allow you to open yourself to a world of endless combinations made with fresh, quality foods.

Fast food may seem more convenient for busy days, but with good organization you will be able to prepare healthy recipes that are easy and suitable for diabetes prevention and losing weight.

#4 Engage in active transportation

At least a couple of times a week swap the car or public transportation for walking, biking or even rollerblading.

These activities have multiple benefits, allowing you to burn calories, breathe fresh air and get out of your routine to relax.

A Word From Our MD

Expert image border HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Rosmy Barrios, MD
Medical advisor for Health Reporter

Body movement through physical activity is important for improving insulin sensitivity, but patients at risk know little about the critical role of restful sleep in controlling glucose levels.

Some research on sleep apnea has shown that those who woke up more during the night had higher glucose levels compared to the control group.

Improving the quality of sleep not only helps control stress but also enhances insulin sensitivity and may prevent developing diabetes.

FAQ

What lifestyle leads to diabetes?

A lifestyle that includes a lack of physical activity, processed food, high levels of stress and lack of sleep is a combination that can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Can you have type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

No, type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different diseases. Diabetes type 1 is caused by the absence of insulin production due to autoimmune destruction of pancreatic cells and type 2 diabetes is multifactorial and causes deficiency in insulin production.

How do I know if I have diabetes type 2?

Diabetes diagnosis is made upon confirmation of glucose levels greater than 126 mg/dL. Symptoms such as increased urination, increased appetite and weight loss may raise suspicions of type 2 diabetes. You can rule out diabetes through regular blood sugar checks which should be less than 100 mg/dL.

What organs are affected by diabetes?

The organ that is mainly affected in diabetes is the pancreas because it is where insulin is produced. Diabetes also affects how the body uses glucose, impacting various organs and systems over time. In addition, in advanced stages, kidney diseases, heart disease, and neuropathies affecting eyes and skin are common. 

Is diabetes preventable?

Yes, type 2 diabetes can be prevented with a timely lifestyle change that includes healthy eating, stress management and exercise for maintaining a healthy weight.

Conclusion: Change Your Story

The consequences of lifestyle choices on type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease, can be significantly reduced by taking early and proactive measures. 

You must act quickly if you have risk factors such as obesity, high cholesterol, or insulin resistance. In order to prevent type 2 diabetes, regular blood sugar monitoring, and healthy routines, including weight management, are essential. 

You have the power to change your health trajectory. Step toward a healthier, diabetes-free life today by making those small yet significant changes. Share your journey and inspire others – how will you begin your path to better health?

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
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HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: November 28, 2023
10 min read 473 Views 0 Comments
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