For type 2 diabetes, prevention appears to be the name of the game. This form accounts for more than 90% of diabetes among adults. It can be averted or delayed by ushering in some changes in diet, exercise and overall lifestyle factors.
It is never too late to start. Check out simple and vital diabetes prevention tips. Besides preventing diabetes these tips help to improve general health.
Diabetes the silent killer
The three main types of diabetes are type I diabetes, type II diabetes and gestational diabetes.
Type I diabetes: It is characterized by lack of insulin production. The body's immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This type of diabetes accounts for 5% of diabetics, requiring insulin therapy. Type I diabetes cannot be prevented but is manageable.
Type II diabetes: It is caused by the body's ineffective use of insulin. There are many factors that increase the risk of developing type II diabetes. It is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for about 95% of diabetic patients. Many are genetically predisposed to develop diabetes with age. It often tends to affect adults over 40 but is now showing up in younger people too. Modern lifestyle characterized by overeating and little exercise speeds up the process resulting in rising incidence of diabetes in young people. Overweight people are most likely to have diabetes. Diabetes preventing tips are effective in delaying or preventing Type II diabetes.
Gestational diabetes: Refers to development of diabetes during pregnancy. Post delivery, most women return to normal blood glucose range. However, within 10 years, more than 50% of women with gestational diabetes are likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Of the three types, the most common and that which can be prevented is type II diabetes. Worldwide, 90 to 95% of diabetics have type II diabetes, of which 15% are not aware due to absence of symptoms. If left unchecked, the condition can result in a series of health complications. Aptly referred to as a silent killer, diabetes can cause different complications such as nerve damage, eye problems, kidney damage, heart diseases and stroke among others.
Diabetes effect on body
Diabetes can cause harm to the body right from head to toe. Understand how diabetes affects different body parts. You can prevent problems by taking appropriate precautionary measures.
Brain: Being diabetic raises the risk for certain cognitive problems. High blood sugar levels are linked with poorer memory, multitasking ability and processing speed. Diabetics are more prone to cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease.
The heart: Diabetes puts people at greater risk for heart disease.
The Eyes: Severe vision loss or blindness and increased risk of glaucoma or cataract.
The mouth: Loss of teeth due to gum disease. Oral disease can lead to heart disease.
Skin: If the blood glucose is high, the body loses fluid, causing skin to become dry and more prone to developing skin infections.
The Kidneys: Kidney damage and bladder infections, in severe cases it can lead to kidney failure.
The nerves: Gradually, nerves in all parts of the body, the arms, legs and vital organs can weaken and get damaged. Nerve damage can lead to numbness or pain.
Stomach: When the nerves in the stomach are damaged, it can cause gastroparesis. As a result, the stomach cannot move properly food through the digestive tract. When food isn't fully digested, blood sugar levels are harder to control.
Reproductive organs: Men and women are likely to experience sexual problems due to damage to nerves and blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction and retrograde ejaculation in men and vaginal dryness, pain during sex or reduced sexual response are the common sexual problems faced by diabetic people.
Leg and feet: Poor blood flow in the leg and feet can lead to series of complications including soars, blisters, leg discomfort, leg pain, foot pain, numbness and non-healing of small cuts and infections.
Psychological: Anxiety, anger and depression are common psychological complications on diabetic people.
Symptomatic or asymptomatic diabetes
Frequent urination, excessive thirst, unusual fatigue, unexplained weight loss, numbness or tingling of the extremities, blurred vision, dry or itchy skin, recurrent infections, and cuts and bruises that take a long time to heal are common diabetes symptoms.
Diabetes without symptoms is also diabetes. Due to absence of symptoms, the person may be unaware of being diabetic. It is a signal for pre-diabetes and the early stages of type II diabetes.
Hereditary component: A family member having diabetes increases chances.
Sedentary lifestyle : Lack of exercise coupled with inactive lifestyle increases the chance of becoming obese; increasing the risk of pre-diabetes and type II diabetes.
Unhealthy diet : Consuming processed foods, poor quality fats with less or no fiber content increases the risks.
Age: Risk of developing diabetes increases with aging because the pancreas begin to produce insulin less effectively and bodily resistance to insulin increases with age.
High BP and cholesterol: Those having one or both these conditions are at greater risk of being diabetic.
Gestational diabetes : Women who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes are at greater risks of developing type II diabetes at some point in life.
Ethnic: Asian, particularly Indian (world's largest diabetes population), Middle East, Oceania and the Caribbean, African American, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans are more likely to develop diabetes than whites.
Diabetes prevention guidelines
Living with diabetes isn't easy. Steadily declining health, continual feeling of tiredness, forgoing many delicious foods, sugary delights, conditioning body and mind for insulin shots, apportioning money for blood monitoring equipment, test strips and medications besides making adjustments to a new lifestyle is inevitable.
Healthy food choices: A healthy diet for preventing diabetics is basically the same as a healthy diet for everyone, high in nutrients, low in fat and moderate in calories with a blend of lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products.
Cut carbs, include whole grains and high fiber diet: There is ample evidence that suggests whole grains do protect against diabetes whereas diets rich in refined carbohydrates lead to increased risk. Also, those who eat a high fiber diet have significant lower blood levels of glucose and cholesterol which in turn helps to reduce chances of diabetes.
Whole grains are safe because the bran and fiber in whole grains make it more difficult for digestive enzymes to break down the starches into glucose. Whole grains are also rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that help reduce the risk of diabetes.
In contrast, white bread, white rice, mashed potatoes, donuts, bagels, and many breakfast cereals have a high glycemic index and glycemic load. These foods can increase blood sugar levels, which in turn may lead to increased diabetes risk. You need to be smart about what types of carbs you eat. Look at the options.
- Choose brown rice or wild rice instead of white rice.
- Take sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash, cauliflower mash instead of white potatoes (in any form, fried or mashed).
- Instead of regular pasta, choose whole-wheat pasta.
- Choose whole-wheat or whole-grain bread over white bread.
- Prefer high-fiber breakfast cereal (e.g. raisin bran) instead of sugary breakfast cereal.
- Steel-cut oats or rolled oats are better than instant oatmeal.
- Choose bran muffin over croissant or pastry.
- Eat plenty of high fiber foods such as beans, lentils, garbanzo beans, green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit and flaxseed.
The health benefit of choosing carbs packed with fiber is that these are digested more slowly thus preventing body from producing too much insulin. They also provide lasting energy and sustain hunger pangs.
Eat sweets but moderately: Sugar can definitely be part of a healthy diet. Fructose is the primary sugar in fruits and honey. Sugar also comes from foods such as candy, soda and junk food and many hidden forms. For instance, in some types of crackers, yogurt, ketchup and peanut butter, sugar is often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS, a corn-based sweetener). Foods that are high in HFCS are:
- Regular soft drinks
- Fruit juice and fruit drinks that are not 100 % juice
- Pancake syrups
- Granola Bars
- Fruit-flavored yogurts
- Frozen yogurts
- Ketchup, Worcester and BBQ sauces
- Jarred and canned pasta sauces
- Canned soups, fruits and vegetables
- Salad dressing
- Breakfast cereals
- Highly sweetened breakfast cereals
HFCS are added to foods and beverages and is the sole caloric sweetener in soft drinks. HFCS can be found even in products which aren't sweet, like bread and processed meats like sausage and ham. Canned vegetables and fruits too have added sugars. Low-fat products belong to high-sugar category. Plenty of sugar is added to make up for the lack of tasty fat.
The United Nations and the World Health Organization released guidelines in 2003 that say sugar should account for not more than 10% of daily calories. Avoid regular soft drinks and highly sweetened breakfast cereals. Read food labels before buying. If HFCS is high on the ingredient list, the food is not the best choice. Foods labeled as 100% organic are understood to be HFCS-free, not those which are labeled 'natural'. Stick to fresh whole foods and avoid commercial and highly processed foods.
Smart ways to satiate a sweet tooth
- Savor favorite sugary recipes. But reduce amount of sugar. Boost sweetness with cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla extract.
- Frozen bananas instead of a creamy ice cream treat, a small chunk of dark chocolate instead of usual milk chocolate bar etc.
- Eating 1.6 ounce of dark chocolate is good for the heart too.
- Instead of consuming a full serving of dessert, substitute half with fresh fruits.
- If you are craving for candy, substitute with a piece of fresh fruit or dried fruits. Dried apple, apricots, mango and papaya can satisfy your sweet tooth. Go for low-cal options like gummy bears, licorice and hard candies.
- Instead of soda, try flavored seltzer water which almost equals the fizz that's found in soda.
Limit fat intake: Eat low-fat diet and choose the right fats. Avoid saturated fats (found mainly in animal products such as red meat, whole milk dairy products, and eggs) and trans-fats. The healthiest fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are found in olives, olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocados. Fatty fish like salmon and sardines, omega 3 enriched eggs, soybeans, flaxseed and walnuts are equally good. Track the calories as weight gain can lead to obesity which is a risk factor for diabetes. Try these options that extend an equally tasty sensation.
- Choose a baked potato instead of French fries.
- If you want fries, make them at home and discard the oil or
- Make oven-fried potatoes with less oil (olive oil).
Exercise regularly: Sedentary lifestyle can cause problems. Being active and exercising regularly are equally important to prevent diabetes. Being overweight is a major cause for developing diabetes. Weight loss improves body's ability to process glucose and ward off diabetes. There is enough evidence that suggests that people who lost 5 to 7 % of their body weight and exercised for half hour each day for at least 5 days a week, cut their risk of developing diabetes by 58%. Sans any health complication, brisk walking or jogging and muscle building through weight lifting are good enough. A fitness program with aerobic exercise and resistance training can be extremely effective.
There are other ways to be physically active to strengthen body's mechanism to handle blood-glucose levels.
- Take walks during lunch breaks.
- Climb the stairs instead of using elevator or lifts.
- Walk or cycle to nearby areas instead of traveling by car.
- Gardening is a good way to be physically active.
- Find time to play with children in the parks or a field.
- Create a fitness plan with challenging as well as fun activities.
- Don't be a slouch potato while watching TV.
Lifestyle adaptations: Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and maintaining healthy body weight play a powerful role in preventing diabetes. There are other aspects too.
- Ponder how many times a year you have partied and felt pressurized the next few days managing the post-party afflictions. Gradually prioritize and switch over to adhering to a healthy diet followed by quality sleep.
- Kick unhealthy habits. Smoking and drinking alcohol contribute to developing diabetes. Alcoholic beverages can quickly increase the sugar levels in the blood.
- Stress can trigger diabetes. Engage in relaxation activities and reduce stress. Engaging in relaxing activities/hobby aids in preventing diabetes.
- Regular check-up is also part of diabetes prevention. If older than 45, it's time to monitor blood sugar levels.
Signs of pre diabetes
If you feel tired and sluggish after eating, check out the signals that your body is sending. High fat, high carbohydrate food can overwhelm your insulin receptor system. The consequent high levels of glucose in the blood stream cause the pancreas to continue to release insulin making you feel sleepy and sluggish. Over time it can lead to a malfunctioning insulin system making you diabetic.
If you constantly crave high carb, high fat and salted food, it can lead to a vicious cycle. It causes the body to produce large amounts of insulin to compensate. This then leads to dramatic dip in the sugar levels in the body. This steep rise and fall of blood sugar levels play havoc with your insulin production making you prone to pre diabetes.
This irregular wrong eating habits lead to the next precursor for pre diabetes - obesity. When your weight is piled up on your waist and abdomen, there is increased risk for pre diabetes.