With an incidence of Diabetes increasing 20 times in the last twenty years, India is fast on its way to becoming the Diabetes capital of the world. More and more people are being diagnosed with the disease everyday, and research shows that the endemic will affect us Indians much more than it does people in the West or the United States.
The good news, however, is that Type 2 Diabetes, the form of diabetes that affects more than 90% of those afflicted by the disease, can be easily delayed and often prevented even in those with a high risk factor of developing the disease. And this can be done by bringing about some simple lifestyle and diet changes.
While leading a healthy lifestyle is imperative for almost everyone, it becomes even more important for those who are at a high risk of diabetes. This includes people with a family history of diabetes, women who have had gestational diabetes, people with pre-diabetes and those who are obese or overweight. While nothing can be done about changing your family history, you can prevent diabetes by bringing about the following changes to your lifestyle.
Lose Weight: Obesity is one of the major risk factors that lead to diabetes. Almost every diabetes prevention study carried out anywhere in the world has led to the conclusion that losing weight greatly decreases a person’s chances of getting diabetes. In fact, you end up decreasing your risk of getting diabetes by 16% for every kilogram of excess weight that you lose. This is because weight loss leads to better use of insulin by the body, leading to lower blood sugar levels.
Exercise: A sedentary lifestyle is one of the main reasons that lead to diabetes. Working in at least 30 to 45 minutes of exercise into your everyday routine will boost the body’s sensitivity to insulin and naturally lower blood sugar. Another added benefit of exercise is that you will lose excess weight as well. Research shows that a combination of weight training and aerobic exercise is the best workout for combating diabetes. However, either of the two, even when done alone, can provide resistance against diabetes.
Switch To A Healthier Diet: The adage—you are what you eat— holds true when it comes to diabetes prevention. Some diet tips that will help you in your fight against diabetes are:
- Contrary to popular belief, diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar. But it can in fact be caused by the weight you gain by eating things that rapidly turn to sugar in your body—read refined cereals, starch rich foods and sweets. Fatty foods are another culprit that lead to an increased risk of not just diabetes, but heart disease as well. A healthy diet should start with cutting down on sugar, fat and refined foods.
- Adding fiber and fiber rich foods is a natural corollary to a diet that goes against refined foods. Fiber rich foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds not only help you lose weight, but have proven benefits when it comes to controlling blood sugar levels and preventing diabetes.
- A diet composed of large amounts of sugary beverages (aerated drinks, juices, too many sugar laden cups of tea or coffee), red meat, processed foods, sweets and high fat dairy products (mithai, paneer, chocolate etc.) is associated with an increase risk of diabetes. Since you are looking at a long term health plan, totally removing these items from your diet may not be possible. However, exercising portion control and moderation where these foods are concerned is necessary for leading a healthy, diabetes free lifestyle.
Quit Smoking: While the jury is still out on whether a drink or two is good for diabetes or not, it is a proven fact that smoking increases a person’s risk of getting diabetes. Smoking decreases the body’s ability to use insulin properly, leading to chain smokers (people smoking more than 20 cigarettes per day) being at thrice as much risk of getting diabetes as non smokers.
Bringing about these changes to your lifestyle will not only help you prevent the onset of diabetes, but will also help you lead a life that is healthier, happier and more wholesome in total.