10 Things You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes


It's one of the diseases everyone seems to be talking about lately. Diabetes. It's been called a disease of civilization, an overweight person's inevitability, and more. However, it can be difficult to know exactly what this monster is and what you (or anyone!) can do to reduce the risk of getting it. (See also: Cheap Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar)

There are two types of diabetes. The first (called, not-so creatively, Type I) is caused by a combination of genes and other factors, and there's not much you can do except manage it. While the second (Type II) is also influenced by genetics, it is often brought on by lifestyle factors.

In Type II diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin. You may make enough of it, but your body can't use it effectively, and so it cannot metabolize the sugars you consume. This leads to all sorts of other problems, and they can lead to an early death if you don't manage it.

If you've been told you're at risk for Type II diabetes, other people in your family have the disease, or you just want to do your best to make sure you don't end up with it, there's a lot you can do to develop a plan to combat it.

1. Be Open to Lifelong Change

Before you do anything else, have a long, honest talk with yourself. Avoiding diabetes usually means making changes and sticking to them for the rest of your life. Are you ready to do that? Are you willing? If you can answer "Yes!" to both of those questions, and only then, proceed to think about a plan.

2. Make a Plan

While defeating a disease sounds like a lot of work, the truth is that the things you need to do to give yourself the best chance against diabetes are pretty simple (and outlined below). However, changing your life is always hard. Therefore, come up with a step-by-step plan to give yourself the best chance at success.

3. Find a Partner

If you can, find someone, or a group of people, who also want to change their lives and who are willing to include you in their plans. Making lifestyle changes with others gives you your own private cheering section, which will provide motivation for the times when you really want to quit. (See also: 5 Ways to Hold Yourself Accountable)

4. Eat Fewer White Carbs and Sugars

Since diabetes has to do with the amount of sugars in your bloodstream, reducing the amount of sugar that you take in will help your body. You will avoid the blood sugar spikes that require it to produce more insulin that normal. White carbs (think white bread, white potatoes, most pasta, and any other easily-digestible carbs) become sugars when they're digested, so begin avoiding them, along with sugar itself.

5. Eat More Fruit and Vegetables

On the flip side, fill up your plate with more fruits and vegetables. These not only provide your body with the nutrients it needs for health, but they also don't create the same blood sugar spikes that white carbs and sugars do, so your body won't have to work overtime to get them all digested. While fruit does contain some sugar, it's not nearly in the amounts that are in processed foods, so you don't need to worry about eating almost as much as you want.

6. Get Out and Move

Exercise helps your body fight insulin resistance and diabetes. In fact, there's evidence that a simple 15-minute walk after eating can reduce your diabetes risk significantly. Not only does exercise help you lose weight and help your body function better, but it also helps you feel better about yourself and your life. Feast on endorphins, and you won't crave the sugary snacks! (See also: Fitness For People Who Hate Exercise)

7. Lose Weight

If you're changing your diet and moving more, losing weight is almost inevitable. It gets its own point, though, because it is essential to lowering your diabetes risk. While not everyone with Type II diabetes is overweight, losing weight helps nearly everyone who has it. The ideal weight for avoiding diabetes depends somewhat on your ethnicity and gender. For instance, studies show that Asian adults have a higher risk at a lower weight than white or African American populations.

8. Get Enough Sleep

Extended and uninterrupted rest has been shown to raise the body's sensitivity to insulin, thus reducing Type II diabetes risk. No one knows quite why this works, but you don't need to know why to implement the strategy. Do what it takes: go to bed earlier, sleep in your own room, or shut off the alarm clock when you can.

9. Set Realistic Goals

Eat better. Exercise more. Get enough sleep. These things seem easy enough, but they encompass some of the most basic and habitual things that we do in our daily lives. To change effectively in these areas, set realistic goals. Maybe you want to start by having fruit instead of bread with your lunch. When that works, have a piece with dinner, too. Begin taking your family on short walks after dinner. Intentionally sleep in on the weekends. Slowly, these small changes will add up and reduce your risk of illness. (See also: Stay Fit and Beautiful in Mind, Body, and Wallet)

10. Evaluate Your Success

Whether you find these changes hard or easy to make, it's important that you evaluate yourself now and then. Maybe you will want to look at things weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Be sure to record your goals and your success or failure on a daily basis. You may find that some changes come much easier than others. Use what you learn to reformulate your goals so they're achievable for you!

If you're looking for more ideas for reducing your risk of diabetes or information on the disease, the American Diabetes Association is a great place to start. They also have information on finding support groups in your area, if you're not sure who can help you achieve your goals.

What are you doing to avoid (or manage) Type II diabetes?

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Guest's picture

Pretty sure Type 1 diabetes is not inherited.

Meg Favreau's picture

According to diabetes.org, both types actually have inherited genetic factors. We've updated the article accordingly. Thanks!

Guest's picture

Eating potatoes, white bread, and pasta do not cause diabetes. Not using appropriate portion control with any food (not just the carbs) can cause OBESITY, which can (but not always) cause your bodies cells to be less receptive to the insulin it produces. Again, eating these foods will NOT cause a person to become diabetic.

Guest's picture

From everything I've read, from what doctor's have told me, these foods can cause your blood sugar to rise, which can lead to diabetes.

Guest's picture

Everything in life is best done in moderation. All foods are best eaten without indulging.

Guest's picture

Great article, thanks.

I had forgotten how important sleep is.

Would love to see this article updated with a list of good foods.