Type 2 diabetes is a health problem closely linked to lifestyle and daily health habits. In fact, the biggest risk factor for developing this chronic health condition is obesity. So, it’s not surprising that the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes is skyrocketing due to the rapid rise in the number of people who are overweight or obese. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes goes up with age. Plus, some people are at higher risk due to genetic factors. However, lifestyle is more important in the development of this chronic health problem than the genes your parents gave you. So, the ball is in your court! There are eight things you can do to reduce your risk of this all-too-common health problem.
Lose Weight if You’re Overweight
Being overweight or obese is the strongest risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Studies show that even modest weight loss, around 5% of total body weight, can lower your risk. If you already have elevated blood sugars, losing weight can sometimes return blood glucose to normal levels. That’s because weight loss improves insulin sensitivity and how cells handle glucose. Studies also show that 86% of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by maintaining a normal weight.
Stop Snacking at Night
Your body coordinates hormone release and cellular activities around 24-hour cycles called circadian rhythms. Based on these rhythms, your body is primed to digest and process food during the morning and afternoon, not late in the evening. Studies link eating meals and snacking at night with weight gain and a rise in blood sugar and insulin levels. In fact, studies show that subjects who eat late at night break down and metabolize fewer lipids. That’s not good for your waistline or your metabolic health!
Walk After Each Meal
After a meal is when blood sugars rise, and exercise helps bring blood glucose down during this critical time. In fact, a study found that subjects who took a 10-minute walk after each meal enjoyed lower blood sugar levels than those who took a single 30-minute walk daily. Brisk walking and other forms of aerobic exercise help your cells take up glucose more efficiently, so your pancreas doesn’t have to make as much insulin. A 10-minute walk after a meal is manageable, so take advantage of this hack that will help lower your blood sugar!
Weight training matters! As we age, we lose muscle mass, but that’s not the only reason to grab a pair of weights or a barbell. A study published in PLOS Medicine that looked at over 100,000 middle-aged and older women found that both aerobic exercise AND strength training and muscle conditioning exercises were linked with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. In the study, women who did aerobic AND resistance training had the lowest risk of being diagnosed with diabetes. So, don’t neglect strength training!
Take a Hot Bath
A small study carried out by researchers at Loughborough University found that soaking in a hot bath (around 100 degrees F.) for an hour was linked with a drop in blood glucose. An additional perk? The participants in the study also enjoyed a reduction in markers of inflammation. These findings bode well for metabolic health and cardiovascular risk. Relaxing in a warm sauna may also help protect against type 2 diabetes. At the very least, a hot bath is soothing and helps relieve stress. That’s important for lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes too.
Get Quality Sleep
Sleep matters! A study published in Diabetes Care in 2010 found that people who slept less than 6 hours per night were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Lack of sleep can boost cortisol, a hormone produced by your adrenal glands that causes a rise in blood sugar. Lack of sleep is also correlated with obesity, another risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Get Enough Magnesium in Your Diet
Studies show that people with type 2 diabetes tend to have lower magnesium levels than people who have healthy blood sugar levels. Plus, a study published in Diabetes Care found that supplementing with magnesium chloride improved insulin sensitivity in people in subjects with type 2 diabetes. That’s important since increasing insulin sensitivity is key to control of blood sugar levels. Do you need a supplement? Get your magnesium, when possible, from whole food sources. Foods high in magnesium include leafy greens, nuts, seeds, avocado, and salmon. Your body needs magnesium to carry out more than 300 reactions in the human body. Make sure you’re getting enough!
Stress contributes to elevations in blood glucose too. When you’re under stress, just as when you’re sleep deprived, your adrenal glands produce more cortisol. As mentioned, cortisol drives glucose into the bloodstream to supply your body with energy during periods of danger or stress. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Endocrinology found that acute psychological stress can trigger insulin resistance quickly. We all need ways to manage stress. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, walking in nature, and listening to soothing music can all help. Find what works for you!
Eat Nuts Every Day
Nuts are a crunchy, low-carb snack, but they also have properties that make them blood-sugar friendly. In fact, a study from Louisiana State University found that people who ate nuts on a routine basis had lower markers of inflammation as well as reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Switch those chips for a handful of nuts! All types of tree nuts and even peanuts are blood-sugar friendly. So, add a little healthy crunch to your diet by eating a variety of nuts. Watch your portions though. Nuts are energy dense, but oh so tasty. Enjoy!
American Diabetes Association. “Facts about Type 2”
Diabetes Spectrum. “The Dilemma of Weight Loss in Diabetes”
American Diabetes Association. “Blood Glucose and Exercise”
Diabetes Self-Management. “Nuts Will Change Your Life”
The Telegraph. News. Science. “Hot bath beats cycling for lowering blood sugar levels for type 2 diabetics”
NHS. “A 10-minute walk after a meal ‘good for diabetes’
PLOS Medicine. “Muscle-Strengthening and Conditioning Activities and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Prospective Study in Two Cohorts of US Women”
Diabetes Care 2003 Apr; 26(4): 1147-1152.
WebMD.com. “Type 2 Diabetes and Sleep”
Diabetes Care 2010 Feb; 33(2): 414-420.
J Endocrinol. 2013 Apr 15;217(2):175-84. doi: 10.1530/JOE-12-0559. Print 2013 May.