Diabetes affects millions of people on a worldwide level and is considered a chronic disease.
Uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes can lead to further complications and ailments such as kidney failure, blindness, heart disease and others.
Before diabetes occurs, there is a period when blood glucose levels remain high, but not so high as to be called diabetes. This is referred to as prediabetes.
According to certain estimations, about 70% of those diagnosed with prediabetes will eventually develop type II diabetes. But thankfully, the progression from prediabetes to diabetes is not inevitable.
And while there are some risk factors you have no control over (such as your genes, past behavior, and age), there are still plenty of things you can do to prevent diabetes from occurring. We’d like to present you with 15 ways on how to reduce your diabetes risk.
1. Cutting Sugars and Refined Carbs
This can increase any risk you have of developing diabetes, as both sugar and refined carbohydrates serve to increase your blood glucose levels and insulin levels. This is why it’s so important to avoid such foods, as it will surely reduce your risk in the long run.
There are many studies which prove this to be true. A detailed analysis of 37 studies discovered that individuals who had the highest fast-digesting carb intakes had a 40% higher chance of developing diabetes in comparison to those who had the lowest intakes.
2. Regular Work Out
Another way you can lower your risk is through regular physical activity. Were you aware that exercising increases your cells’ sensitivity to insulin? Which means that when you work out, maintaining your blood glucose levels is easier and requires less insulin.
One particular study involving those with prediabetes made a crucial discovery. Those who did moderate exercise increased their sensitivity to insulin by 51%. Those who did higher-intensity exercise increased it by as much as 85%! But it’s important to note that this occurred strictly on workout days.
Indeed, not just prediabetic adults, but also those who are obese or overweight, benefited from such activity, which successfully reduced blood sugar and insulin resistance. Such exercises were, among others, short and intense exercises, strength training, interval training, and aerobic workouts.
More frequent workout seem to be beneficial when it comes to improving function and insulin response. A study conducted on this subject stated that burning over 2000 calories a week through exercising was needed to achieve the benefits mentioned prior.
So, the most important thing is to choose an activity (or activities) you enjoy and can do on a regular basis without quitting after some time.
3. Water Should Be Your Primary Beverage
We are sure we don’t need to inform you that water is by far the healthiest and most natural beverage one can drink.
After all, by sticking to water, you will avoid all those unhealthy beverages which are more sugar than anything else. Not to mention some other questionable ingredients, including preservatives.
One should also take this study into consideration, which observed the risk of type II diabetes in 2,800 individuals.
Another research claimed that neither fruit juice, not beverages which are artificially sweetened were proper beverages for the prevention of diabetes.
In comparison, drinking water may prove beneficial, particularly improved insulin response and blood glucose control. At least according to this study, as well as this one.
And yet another study which lasted 24 weeks observed overweight adults who, while following a weight-loss regime, replaced any diet sodas with water. The results were a decrease in their lower fasting blood glucose and insulin resistance, as well as lower insulin levels.
4. If You’re Overweight or Obese, Lose Weight
While not every single individual diagnosed with type II diabetes is overweight, a large percentage are. Furthermore, people with prediabetes usually carry excess fat around their abdominal area, which is called visceral fat.
And even though losing just a little will prove beneficial, many studies have suggested that the more weight you shed, the less your chances of developing diabetes. This is proven by a study involving 1000 individuals.
You don’t have to starve yourself in order to lose weight. Choose the healthier methods, such as the paleo, vegetarian and Mediterranean diets. Sticking to this new healthy daily diet will also make sure you maintain your weight-loss.
One other study discovered that obese people, after losing weight and experiencing an improvement in their insulin levels and blood glucose levels, saw an elevation in these same levels the moment they gained either a portion or the entire weight they had lost.
5. Quit Smoking
While this may sound cliché, you’d be doing your health and body a huge favor by quitting smoking, if you happen to be a smoker in the first place. Smoking has been linked to a vast number of illnesses, with emphysema, heart disease, and cancer being just a few examples.
This includes cancer of the breast, digestive tract, prostate, and lungs. Even something like second-hand smoking has been linked to type II diabetes. This is all according to an analysis of several studies. This goes particularly for heavy smokers.
Another study observed the risk in adult male smokers. 5 years after they had quit their risk was reduced by 13%. And in the long run, namely, after 20 years, their risk was the same as that of those who had never smoked in the first place.
6. Following a Diet Low in Carbs
Following a low-carb or ketogenic diet has witnessed a decrease in one’s diabetes risk, and not just by a little either. And it’s not like only low-carb diets will do the trick, though they have the most scientific evidence backing them up.
People have constantly reported an increase in their insulin sensitivity. As well as a decrease in their insulin levels and blood glucose levels. A study which lasted 12 weeks further proved this.
It’s common knowledge that if one limits his or her carbohydrate intake during a meal, their blood sugar levels will not rise nearly as much. Ketogenic or low-carb diets have also shown to reduce one’s fasting blood sugar.
Not to mention improving your general health and losing some excess weight. A number of studies have bared witness to this.
7. Keep an Eye on Your Portion Sizes
Even if you choose not to limit your carbs, you should still try and limit your portion size. Studies have proven time and time again how eating large meal portions at once (as opposed to smaller one throughout your day) has led to much higher insulin and blood sugar levels.
This goes particularly for someone who already happens to be overweight. The opposite is true as well: cutting portion sizes is sure to reduce any diabetes risk.
In fact, a study lasting 2 years and involving men with prediabetes, discovered that those who practiced healthy nutrition habits and reduced their portions saw a 46% decrease in their risk of diabetes compared to those who didn’t make any lifestyle changes.
A different study witnessed a group which controlled their portion sizes, lower both their insulin and blood sugar levels during the course of 12 weeks. Which, naturally also lowered their chances of developing diabetes.
8. Avoid a Sedentary Lifestyle
This is an especially important step in preventing diabetes. A sedentary lifestyle is when a person does little or no physical activity throughout their day. A number of observational studies have witnessed a clear connection between such a lifestyle and a larger risk of developing diabetes.
As many as 47 studies claim that those who spent most of their days sitting down had an increase of 91% of their diabetes risk. It’s not like you need to make some core changes. Anything as simple as taking short walks and moving around throughout the day.
Also, if you happen to have a desk job, it would do your health a world of good if you stood up and moved around for just a couple of minutes every hour. And yes, we know how hard it is to make changes in your way of life. Old habits, indeed, die hard.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim to make improvements, as they will be well worth it. One 12-month study gave young adults a special program for changing their sedentary lifestyle. Unfortunately, after this study had ended, researchers observed that the participants did not decrease their sitting time.
That’s why it’s crucial to start off with baby steps. In other words, set achievable and realistic goals. A good example is choosing the stairs instead of the elevator and standing while chatting on the phone. This is a great start of reducing any sitting tendencies. And once again, it will be well worth the effort.
9. Eating a High-Fiber Diet
Fiber is essential for a healthy gut as well as proper weight management. Studies involving prediabetic, obese and elderly participants have proven that it helps in keeping one’s insulin and blood glucose levels low.
Fiber can be categorized into insoluble and soluble. The soluble kind absorbs water, whereas the other kind does not. Once in the digestive tract, the soluble fiber mixed with the water forms a type of gel which slows the rate at which one’s food is absorbed.
10. Optimize Your Vitamin D
This vitamin is very important when it comes to controlling your blood sugar. This is proven by many studies which claim that those deficient in vitamin D (or whose blood levels are way too low) have a much higher risk of developing diabetes.
That’s why the majority of health organizations recommend a vitamin D level of at least 30 ng/ml. A specific study discovered that those with high vitamin D blood levels had a 43% lower chance of diabetes than those whose levels were low.
Another observational study, this time from Finland, observed the effects of giving vitamin D supplements to children. Needless to say, the results were astounding.
Some other controlled studies have successfully proven that when people deficient in this vitamin take supplements, there is an improvement in the cells which produce insulin as well as a normalization of their blood glucose levels.
If you’re not a fan of supplements, some excellent food sources of this vitamin are fatty fish as well as cod liver oil. Exposing yourself to some sunshine can also raise your vitamin D levels.
Though for some this may not be enough, and in that case, they’d need to turn to supplements in order to maintain proper amounts of vitamin D in their system.
11. Minimize Your Processed Food Intake
This step is advised for anyone, not just those seeking to maintain their blood sugar levels or those who fear that they may develop diabetes.
Processed foods are never good news for your health or body. They may lead to many problems such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Ideally, you should completely avoid such foods, but if you find that is simply too hard, at least try and limit them as much as possible.
Numerous Studies have shown that cutting back on packaged foods which are high in refined grains, additives or vegetable oils leads to positive health results as well as a reduction in one’s diabetes risk.
What to eat instead? There are plenty of tasty and healthy alternatives for you to choose from (or even mix them up to suit your personal taste). Vegetables, fruits, nuts and other plant-based whole foods have nothing but positive things to offer your body.
One particular study found that those daily diets which were poor in quality and high in processed foods increased one’s diabetes risk by as much as 30%. Additionally, switching to whole, healthy, nutritious foods successfully lowered that risk.
12. Drink Tea or Coffee
We’ve already established that drinking water is the best way to go. But you can also add tea or coffee (or both) into your diet, as there is some proof of their potential in lowering your diabetes risk.
In fact, plenty of studies observed that the consumption of coffee on a regular, daily basis ended up reducing this risk by 8-54%! The greatest percentage, naturally, was in those with the highest consumption.
Similar results were seen in a review of several studies involving the consumption of coffee or caffeinated tea. Women and overweight men had achieved the best results.
This may be thanks to polyphenol content of both tea and coffee. These are powerful antioxidants which show promise in protecting one against diabetes.
Furthermore, green tea has a unique, special antioxidant compound named epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is praised for both increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing the liver’s blood glucose release.
13. Take Some of These Natural Herbs
There are several herbs which have shown positive results in reducing our chances of diabetes (and even increasing our insulin sensitivity!).
It is the main component of the famed turmeric, which has been used for centuries in India, but has now gained popularity in the western world as well.
It’s potent anti-inflammatory properties not only work well against many different diseases such as arthritis. But they can also reduce inflammation in those with prediabetes.
This can be found in a number of herbs and has a long history of usage in traditional Chinese medicine. It not only combats inflammation, but it also lowers one’s cholesterol and any other markers of heart disease.
In fact, an analysis of 14 different studies reported that berberine is just as effective as the pharmaceutical drug metformin when it comes to the effective lowering of one’s blood glucose levels.
Thanks to all this, berberine may also be useful for prediabetics in their efforts to avoid reaching diabetes. But when it comes to this, many more studies need to follow.
A word of caution. You’d be wise not to use berberine together with any other diabetes medications you may be taking. Unless your doctor says it’s all right.
14. Choose Good Fats Over Bad
Is it really a surprise to you that the type of fats you consume also play a key role in whether you are in danger of developing diabetes or not? That’s why you should never hesitate when it comes to opting for the good kind.
Were you aware that polyunsaturated fats found in seeds, nuts, and liquid vegetable oils can all aid in warding off diabetes? The opposite effect happens by consuming trans fats, found in fast food, fried foods, most margarines, and packaged baked goods.
All of these, along with any other product which has ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’ on its label, are a huge health hazard, and not just for diabetes. Another thing you should know concerning the polyunsaturated fats we get from fish (which also go by the name of ‘marine omega-3 fats’).
Even though there is plenty of evidence which suggests these healthy fats can protect you against heart disease, they don’t seem to do anything about protecting you from diabetes.
Still, in case you already have diabetes, consuming fish can aid in keeping any heart attacks at bay. Or even from passing away due to heart disease. This is good news indeed, as a large percentage of diabetics also happen to have cardiovascular-related issues.
15. Moderate Alcohol Consumption Might Actually Help
Yes, you read that right. There is plenty of proof which connects (controlled!) alcohol consumption to a reduced heart disease risk. Scientists suggest the same may apply when it comes to type II diabetes. What it does is increase insulin’s efficiency to get the blood glucose inside one’s cells.
But take heed, we are by no means saying you should turn to alcoholic beverages under the excuse that you are trying to protect yourself from disease. Remember, the keyword here is ‘moderate’, which means one drink a day for women and two for men.
You should always keep in mind that higher alcohol amounts could have the opposite effect. Namely, they may increase your risk of developing diabetes, among other things. If, on the other hand, you don’t drink alcohol, we are not suggesting that you start now.
You can achieve the same benefits through exercise, losing weight, and a healthy daily diet.
The positive conclusion which we can deduce from all of this is that one has plenty of scientifically-proven ways of either preventing or managing their diabetes.
Moreover, one should not be so pessimistic as to view prediabetes as nothing but a ‘stepping stone’ to diabetes. Instead, try and see it as a motivator for making some positive lifestyle changes, that way keeping diabetes at bay.
One of the main lifestyle changes would be which foods you eat and which you should best stay away from. If you pay close attention and follow the advice given in this article, you should have no problem in reducing your risk of developing diabetes.