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There’s a new epidemic in this country, and it’s one that many people can prevent by making simple lifestyle changes. Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, once thought of as a disease of older adults, now strikes people in early adulthood – and even childhood. Why is this a problem? Type 2 diabetes damages every organ in your body over time and can lead to heart disease, kidney disease and premature death. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to lower your risk for developing this common condition. Here are five positive lifestyle changes you can make to ward off type 2 diabetes.
Shed the Extra Pounds
Carrying around excess body fat, especially around the waist and abdominal region is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. In fact, experts say the increase in cases of type 2 diabetes parallels the rise in obesity. Excess body weight increases the risk for metabolic syndrome, a condition that’s a precursor to type 2 diabetes – but losing weight can help. Shedding extra body fat helps insulin function more efficiently so your risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes is lower. Losing weight if you’re overweight is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and other health conditions as well.
Exercise improves the ability of cells to use insulin. This means your pancreas doesn’t have to produce as much. That’s a good thing when it comes to lowering your risk for diabetes. Plus, it helps with weight control. What kind of exercise is best? Research shows that both aerobic exercise and strength training is effective. Simply walking at least 30 minutes 5 days a week offers benefits, but you’ll get more protection if you pick up the pace and stride briskly enough to work up a sweat.
Change What You Drink
Are you a soft drink junkie? Time to kick the habit. According to a large study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, if you drink even one soft drink sweetened with sugar a day you’ll double your risk for type 2 diabetes. But coffee may be your ally in the fight against type 2 diabetes. Research shows that drinking 4 or more cups a day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 50%. Thirsty? make a trip to Starbucks, but order plain coffee. The sugar in all of those frou-frou drinks isn’t any better than a soft drink.
Change Your Diet
One of the best ways to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes is to change the composition of your diet. Processed carbohydrates in packaged foods and foods sweetened with sugar causes rapid rises in blood sugar and insulin levels. These fluctuations cause cells to become resistant to insulin over time. This leads to metabolic syndrome, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. The solution? Replace processed carbs and rapidly absorbed carbs like white bread, white potatoes and white rice with whole grains and vegetables. This will help to stabilize your blood sugar levels and keep your pancreas from working too hard. Research also shows that a high-fiber diet lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes – and veggies and whole grains are good sources.