According to the American Diabetes Association, a whopping 96 million American adults have prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not elevated enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Experts say that it is important to know that prediabetes doesn’t have to lead to type 2 diabetes. With simple lifestyle changes, dietitians say you can bring blood sugar levels back to normal and prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
“The onset of type 2 diabetes is gradual, with most individuals progressing through a state of prediabetes,” says Dr. Michael Greger, a best-selling author and creator of the website NutritionFacts.org. “Since current methods of treating diabetes remain inadequate, prevention is preferable.”
Greger points to a landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in which thousands of study subjects were divided into three groups. One group was given the leading diabetes drug, metformin, the second followed a regimen of diet and exercise and the third, the placebo group, did not make changes.
The group who took metformin — a diabetes drug with side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and even death — fared better than the placebo group. However, those who followed a healthy diet and exercised did even better. The lifestyle intervention participants experienced a whopping 58% reduced risk of developing diabetes compared to only 31% reduced risk for those who took the medication.
“The lifestyle intervention was significantly more effective than the drug and had fewer side effects,” says Greger. “More than three-quarters of those on the drug reported gastrointestinal symptoms.”
Here are six daily habits to cultivate to prevent prediabetes from becoming type 2 diabetes:
- Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. According to EatingWell, only one in 10 Americans consume the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and veggies daily. The antioxidants in these foods can help improve insulin resistance, which leads to better control of blood sugar.
- Manage your stress. “Chronic stress can wreak havoc on health and well-being by hindering your immunity, making you susceptible to many types of illnesses,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook. “Plus, stress hormones like cortisol can contribute to weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels.” Harris-Pincus recommends taking time for self-care and practicing meditation or deep breathing exercises.
- Get enough quality sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need at least seven hours of sleep nightly. Getting less can not only make your cranky, but mess with your body’s response to insulin, says EatingWell. Lack of sleep changes the levels of growth hormone and cortisol, which makes us more insulin resistant. Even one night of poor sleep increases insulin resistance the following day.
- Make lunch the main meal of the day. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, the renowned author of “The End of Diabetes,” tells Newsmax that we can prevent prediabetes from morphing into type 2 diabetes by making lunch the main meal of the day. “Eat a large green salad with beans or chili on top and make your own salad dressing using a good quality vinegar blended with nuts,” he suggests. “Finish eating for the day by 7 p.m. at the latest.”
- Get moving. “Prolonged sitting, including spending many hours watching television or in front of a computer may accelerate your risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” says Lorena Drago, a certified diabetes care and education specialist. “Physical activity enhances insulin sensitivity, increases how the muscles use blood glucose, and improves insulin resistance.” She recommends doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week.
- Follow a plant-based diet. A plant-based diet is effective in lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes because it is high in fiber, low in saturated fat, and improves inulin sensitivity, according to EatingWell. This means consuming more nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes. Research shows that following a plant-based diet can reduce your risk of diabetes by 30%. “I also recommend limiting animal products and grains, avoiding oils and refined carbohydrates. These changes will also reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and help you reach a healthy weight,” says Fuhrman.
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