Largely preventable with a healthy lifestyle, type 2 diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. What was once known as adult-onset diabetes, type 2 diabetes now also affects American children in alarming numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if the current increase in diabetes cases stays constant, the number of children with type 2 diabetes may increase by almost 50% by the year 2050. As it is, in the last 15 years, American adults with type 2 diabetes did increase by more than 50% in 42 states and by more than 100% in 18 states.
It’s clear that Americans who want to live long and healthy lives need to look at their lifestyle habits and make the necessary changes to reduce the risks of developing largely preventable type 2 diabetes. Although for some people genetics is an uncontrollable risk factor, for others a healthy lifestyle can dramatically lower the chances of developing the disease. As an added health bonus, adopting healthy habits now will not only help to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes but will reduce your risks for cardiovascular disease as well. The good news is you need only take small steps in order to succeed in adopting healthier lifestyle habits.
The first step is to acknowledge that you need and want to make changes. Setting one or two reachable goals is a good place to start. Keep your goals realistic and be specific about what they are. For instance, if you want to increase your physical activity, set a goal such as walking for 15 minutes after dinner, 5 nights per week, rather than “exercise more.” Changing your eating habits could involve a commitment to eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day rather than just “eat healthier.” As these small changes become long term habits, you can then begin to set new reachable goals.
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is the one of the best ways to reduce your risks. In addition to type 2 diabetes, obesity related health conditions include insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Overweight people are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes because body fat can interfere with the body’s ability to use insulin, eventually exhausting the pancreas. Studies show that a 7 – 10% weight loss provides a recognized advantage for prevention, meaning that you do not have to reach an ideal weight in order to experience health benefits. To improve insulin sensitivity, you simply need to engage in the process of weight loss and keep moving forward.
Increasing your physical activity helps to lower your blood glucose levels. Exercise not only benefits weight loss, it aids your muscles’ ability to use insulin and absorb glucose. When you exercise regularly, insulin sensitivity is increased, enabling your muscles to better use insulin to take up glucose both during and after activity. Exercise helps to manage blood sugar by increasing blood flow to the muscles, which demand higher quantities of glucose during increased activity.
Most importantly, improve your diet by making healthier choices. According to a study from the Harvard School of Public Health, people who made an effort to reduce their added sugar and refined grain consumption and include more fruits, vegetables and fiber-filled whole grains in their diet lowered their risk for type 2 diabetes by 20%, even when they failed to exercise or lose weight. By combining weight loss, regular exercise and a healthy diet you can further reduce your risks. By staying lean and active, you can improve the quality of your life and increase the chances of having years of diabetes-free healthy living.
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