When it comes to Type 2 diabetes, many only consider weight when considering their risk. However, diabetes is complicated, and risk factors are numerous.
The prevalence of diabetes is reflected in statistics. From 1980 through 2011, the number of Americans with diagnosed diabetes more than tripled, from 5.6 million to 20.9 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,; millions more have prediabetes or are undiagnosed.
On the bright side, cutting-edge research has uncovered strategies for avoiding, controlling and even reversing diabetes.
“It’s tempting to think that there’s not much you can do except take medication and hope for the best,” said George L. King, M.D., chief scientific officer at Joslin Diabetes Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “However, anyone can improve their body’s response to insulin and its ability to metabolize glucose in the blood.”
Each individual’s glucose control problems are unique, which is why King offers a range of evidence-based, diabetes-fighting strategies. Here he shares a few:
A recent study by Dr. King and his Joslin colleagues has shown that insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism and Type 2 diabetes risk can all be significantly improved by switching to a low-fat, high-fiber diet consisting of 70 percent carbohydrates, 15 percent fat and 15 percent protein, including 15 grams of dietary fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed.
This dietary approach is easy to maintain, as it doesn’t call for restricting calories or totally avoiding any particular food group. While many diabetes experts promote restricting carbohydrates, this diet distinguishes between refined carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates, which are high in fiber and will be converted into blood glucose much more slowly.
If your BMI is above 25 and you’re able to reduce your body weight by 5 to 7 percent, you can reduce your insulin resistance and improve your glucose metabolism. Be advised, many doctors feel BMI is of limited value in determining a diabetes risk because it doesn’t distinguish between fat and lean tissue or between different types of body fat. Abdominal fat is the most dangerous type of fat in terms of diabetes risk, so many doctors use waist circumference as an additional measurement.
Your muscles can lose insulin sensitivity due to inactivity. This can be largely reversed through a combination of 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week plus weekly strength training sessions. Together, these activities can increase your muscles’ ability to oxidize fats, glucose and other fuels, while also helping you lose weight.
There is mounting evidence that lack of sleep can contribute to insulin resistance and possibly causes damage to the pancreas, putting you at heightened risk for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Attempt to get seven to eight hours of high-quality sleep every night to improve insulin sensitivity.
More diabetes strategies can be found at workman.com.
Whether you have diabetes or not, understanding this disease and how it can be controlled can significantly improve your overall health.