A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can be a life-altering experience. If diabetes runs in your family, it does not mean you will automatically develop it but you are at a greater risk because of your genes. However, you can take steps today to prevent ever getting a diagnosis of the seventh leading cause of death in the United States by making healthy lifestyle choices. Here are 9 lifestyle modification steps to get you started in preventing type 2 diabetes – the more you do, the more likely you can avoid this disease:
- Maintain a healthy body weight – If you are overweight to obese, excess weight is the single greatest cause of type 2 diabetes. Losing just 7 to 10% or your current weight can cut your chances of developing type 2 diabetes in half.
- Be more physically active – Sitting in front of a screen (TV, computer, video games) more than 2 hours a day can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 20%. Being inactive burns few calories and can lead to weight gain. Get up and move finding ways to be more active. Go on a 30 minute walk, ride a bicycle, use stairs whenever you can, or simply find activities you enjoy doing that gets you moving.
- Reduce highly processed foods for more whole grains – Highly processed foods include items made with primarily white flour and sugar – cakes, cookies, sweet rolls, pastries, pie, donuts, bagels – all have too much sugar and can cause weight gain along with increasing blood sugar levels. Choose instead healthier options of whole wheat bread, brown rice, grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, farro, and amaranth.
- Swap sugary drinks for more water, coffee or unsweetened tea – Sugary drinks include soda, sweetened tea, lemonade, sports drinks, fruit drinks, and any others containing sugar. Their sugar content means extra calories which again leads to weight gain in addition to increasing inflammation, high triglycerides, and increased insulin resistance. Choose water, coffee or unsweetened tea as your beverages of choice.
- Go for good fats – Choose good fats of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These include fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, olive oil, canola oil, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds and flaxseeds. These are healthier choices of fats helping ward off type 2 diabetes. Avoid saturated and trans fats often found in stick butter, fried foods, packaged baked goods and in many fast food restaurants.
- Limit processed meats – This means bacon, sausage, hot dogs, salami, bologna, and deli meats. They are too high in calories, fat, sodium and preservatives and contribute little to a healthy diet. Choose instead lean cuts of red meat (beef, pork, lamb), poultry, and fish. Keep the serving size reasonable at 3-4 oz. and vary the type of meat throughout the week.
- Fix more meals at home and eat out less frequently – Fixing a meal at home gives you control over what ingredients are used. Restaurant meals usually means large portion sizes meaning too many calories, sodium, fat and/or sugar.
- Keep portion sizes reasonable – ChooseMyPlate.gov is an excellent website giving you the basics of building a healthy meal, each and every time you sit down to eat. Use it to help guide you in what a normal portion size should look like and creating nutritious meals.
- Stop smoking – People who smoke are about 50% more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers. Consult with your physician on how to quit.
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