Let’s face it, America: we have a sugar problem. The CDC estimates that over 86 million Americans are living with a condition called prediabetes, and 90% don’t know it.
If your blood sugar values fall above a certain cut off point, your doctor may diagnose you with prediabetes. People with prediabetes are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Physical inactivity, family history of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, low HDL and high triglycerides also all increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Did you know that you can take charge of your health and reduce your risk of developing diabetes? Here are two ways how.
1. Eat Mediterranean
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of developing diabetes. This style of eating emphasizes healthy fats, whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fish and is lower in consumption of other types of animal proteins.
The American Diabetes Association recommends limiting saturated and trans fats, switching out processed for whole grains, focusing on high-quality fats (like those found in nuts, fish and olive oil) and increasing fiber as dietary goals for people at high risk of diabetes. Adopting a Mediterranean-style eating pattern can help you to meet all of those goals.
Some simple ideas for going Mediterranean might include:
- Adding chickpeas and spinach to your soups or pasta sauce
- Eating wild-caught Alaskan salmon twice per week
- Replacing your white bread with a whole wheat variety
- Choosing walnuts and/or almonds as a snack instead of a candy bar
- Cooking with olive or avocado oil instead of butter or margarine
2. Move More
According to the ADA, physical activity is important in managing diabetes as, among other things, it helps lower your blood glucose.
Try gradually increasing your level activity to include 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity (50-70% of your maximum heart rate) with no more than 2 days off in a row. This works out to about 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.
Adding in resistance training at least once per week can help build muscle. Muscle tissue uses more glucose as fuel than fat, making increasing muscle mass is an important part of healthy blood sugar regulation.
Make sure you talk with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen, especially if you already have diabetes or heart disease.
Making lifestyle changes can be challenging, and having regular follow up can help you to address challenges and stay motivated on your path to healthier eating. Many different clinics and community centers offer CDC-approved diabetes prevention programs that can help you stick to your goals for food, exercise and weight loss. Don’t delay – talk to your doctor and get started on your path to diabetes prevention today!
Dr. Jennifer Pilon is a naturopathic physician practicing at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle, WA. Her clinical interests include women's health, male and female infertility, adjunctive treatment of depression and anxiety, environmental medicine and detoxification, hormonal problems and management of common chronic health conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure, arthritis, IBS and prediabetes.