Top 10 Tips to Prevent Diabetes
"More than 90% of type 2 diabetes cases can be prevented by lifestyle changes!"
Today, we’re starting a 5-part series with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, on prevention. In this series, we’ll cover several topics our readers and viewers have requested, including lung cancer, heart disease, depression, and high blood pressure. The series will offer some of the best natural, science -backed ways to help prevent some of the most dangerous health issues facing us today.
In part 1, we’ll take a deeper look at a health issue affecting more people than ever: diabetes. Learn more about diabetes, including Dr. Nancy’s 10 top simple ways to help prevent it. Some of these recommendations may sound surprising, but they are super effective!
- 03:30: Diabetes Overview
- 07:28: Diabetes Facts
- 16:10: Preventing Diabetes
- 18:57: Top 10 tips to prevent diabetes
- 19:11: Eat Your Whole Grains
- 21:26: Fill Up on Fiber
- 23:49: Drink Your Coffee!
- 26:36: Make Sleep Your Priority
- 29:41: Get Your Heart Rate Up!
- 35:53: Build Muscle
- 37:49: Practice Yoga
- 39:47: Get enough magnesium in your diet
- 42:47: Sprinkle on the Cinnamon
- 43:27: Reduce Chronic Inflammation in Your Body
- 45:52: Wrap-Up
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when blood glucose (also called blood sugar), is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. When people are diabetic, or pre-diabetic, their body doesn’t make enough — or any — insulin, or doesn’t use insulin efficiently. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells. This is not good!
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Both types of diabetes are chronic diseases that affect the way your body regulates blood sugar (glucose).
One way to better understand diabetes, is to think of Glucose as the fuel that provides energy to your body’s cells, but to enter your cells it needs a key. Insulin is that key.
People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin. So they don’t even have the key to start their engine.
People with type 2 diabetes don’t respond to insulin as well as they should, and often later in the disease they don’t make enough insulin. People with type 2 diabetes have the key to start the engine, but the key is broken, so the engine won’t start.
Both types of diabetes can lead to chronically high blood sugar levels. That is what increases the risk of diabetes complications.
- Over 100 million people in this country are either diabetic or prediabetic. That’s 30% of the population! Most cases are type 2, which for the most part is preventable with just a few simple lifestyle changes will go a long way.
- People who have type 2 diabetes are insulin-resistant. As we discussed, insulin is a hormone that helps your body turn sugar into energy. When you have type 2 diabetes, your cells don't respond to it like they should. This is also known as insulin resistance. When it happens, sugar backs up in your blood. Your pancreas, until it eventually fails, works overtime to make even more insulin to get rid of the sugar. So you wind up with too much of both: too much insulin and too much blood sugar.
- Diabetes can be really serious, even leading to death. In fact, type 2 diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 7 out of every 10 people with diabetes over the age of 65 will die of some form of heart disease. If you have it, your overall death risk is about twice that of people your age who don’t have diabetes.
- People with high blood sugar are often extremely thirsty. Other symptoms include dry mouth, frequent hunger (especially after you eat), frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision, and headaches. Type 2 diabetes can also cause itching, numbness, and tingling in the hands and feet. You may also notice that wounds heal more slowly than they used to.
- Many people who have diabetes can manage blood sugar levels without the aid of medication. It’s commonly believed that if you have diabetes, you will have to take medication for life, but that’s not always the case. The key is to lose any extra weight, exercise regularly, and to pay close attention to your diet, especially the size of your portions and when you are eating.
If you're already taking diabetes medication, you may be able to work with your doctor to cut back or even stop taking it if you lose weight or become more active. You can also follow Dr. Nancy’s top 10 steps to prevent - or reverse - diabetes!
Diabetes has become an absolute epidemic. In fact, there are now nearly 30 million people, or 10% of the US population, living with diabetes, and another 85 million are considered pre-diabetic — meaning they are living with consistently elevated blood sugar levels. Additionally, an estimated 20% of girls and 25% of boys born in the year 2000 will be diagnosed with diabetes in their lifetimes. We’re not sharing these numbers repeatedly to scare you, but just make sure we are all aware.
If that doesn’t put it into perspective, let’s look at a few more specific numbers. Type 2 diabetics are up to four times as likely to die from heart disease and it’s estimated that women diagnosed with diabetes by the time they're 40 will lose 14 years, on average, from their lives; and men are not far behind, losing nearly 12 years.
Here’s the silver lining: a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine determined that more than 90% of type 2 diabetes cases can be prevented by lifestyle changes!
Diabetes is often triggered by poor diet and inactivity, because fat interferes with the body's ability to use insulin, that important hormone that carries glucose from our bloodstream into our cells. When glucose can't get into the cells, it builds up in the blood and can lead to the problems we see with diabetes, that range from poor circulation to nerve damage, kidney failure, and even blindness.
Many people who were diabetic or prediabetic have been able to completely change their health by losing weight and getting in shape. In fact, even if you already have diabetes, drastic changes to your current diet and exercise habits can put you back on the track to good health, as long as you commit to making those changes permanent.
Top 10 tips to prevent diabetes
Eat Your Whole Grains
Eating at least two servings of whole grains per day can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by over 20% percent. A diet high in processed grains, like white rice, flour, and white bread, on the other hand, has been strongly associated with an increased risk of the disease. These refined carbohydrates are easily digested, causing a rapid spike in blood sugar.
So when we are talking a serving of whole grains, that means ½ cup — or about the size of a computer mouse — of any of the following: wild rice, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, red rice, black rice, or brown rice.
Try cooking up a big batch of organic, wild rice, let it cool, then toss it with your favorite vinaigrette, fresh veggies, a handful of greens (like arugula) and pumpkin or hemp seeds. Then keep it in the fridge — it’s a great go to for lunch or a quick side for dinner!
Fill Up on Fiber
Fiber is found in veggies, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds, as well as in whole grains and is absolutely essential for slowing the flow of glucose from the intestines into your bloodstream, which helps keep your blood sugar steady. In fact, a study of prediabetic subjects found that a high-fiber diet could actually reduce a patient's progression to diabetes by over 60%.
Speaking of fiber, don’t forget fresh berries — blueberries, black raspberries, and red raspberries are loaded with fiber and antioxidants — and are a healthy and delicious way to curb your sweet tooth!
Drink Your Coffee!
You know we don’t usually champion coffee consumption, but in this case, we actually do recommend that you drink some coffee as a diabetes prevention measure. We can’t ignore the studies that have demonstrated coffee’s benefits when it comes to helping prevent diabetes! In fact, multiple studies demonstrate that people who regularly drink coffee (both caffeinated and decaf) have a much lower risk of diabetes. One study found that they were 60% less likely to develop diabetes. It’s believed that coffee may actually reduce blood sugar levels and has been shown to improve metabolism. Plus, it’s loaded with antioxidants that may even protect your body’s insulin-secreting cells from damage, commonly seen in diabetes and prediabetic people.
Now, if you don’t drink coffee, you don’t have to start — and we recommend you don’t — but if you do like coffee, we recommend you avoid caffeine. So, if you are going to drink coffee, make sure it’s organic, fair-trade, and decaf! And we’re talking black coffee here — not a Caramel Macchiato with extra whipped cream or a Cookies and Cream frozen latte!
Make Sleep Your Priority
Because insulin levels are strongly linked to melatonin (the sleep hormone) poor sleep habits cause significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels. In addition, sleep deprivation leads to cravings for high-calorie, high-carb foods. Not only is this unhealthy in terms of your weight and inflammation levels, but managing your intake of carbohydrates is absolutely essential for regulating blood sugar and insulin levels. So make sleep a priority. If you are looking for a few easy and fast ways to improve your sleep habits, try some of the following:
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day, (yes,even on the weekends!). This will help regulate your circadian rhythm, or your internal body clock, and ensure you body is on a consistent sleep schedule.
- Limit caffeine intake and absolutely avoid caffeine after 1:00 p.m. The effects of caffeine can last up to 8 to 12 hours.
- Put down your phone and close your laptop at least one hour before you go to bed! Blue-light from phones and computers inhibit your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle, making it more difficult for you to sleep.
- And, once you are in bed, practice deep breathing exercises designed to clear your head
Get Your Heart Rate Up!
Do you know what your target heart rate is? The target heart rate is the range you want your heart rate to be for maximum benefits while working out.
To determine your target heart rate, first, figure out your maximum heart rate — to do this, take your age and subtract it from 220. For example, if you're 45 years old, subtract 45 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 175. This is the average maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute during exercise.
Once you know your maximum heart rate, you can calculate your desired target heart rate zone — the level at which your heart is being exercised and conditioned, but not overworked.
The American Heart Association generally recommends a target heart rate of:
- Moderate exercise intensity: 50 - 70% of your maximum heart rate
- Vigorous exercise intensity: 70 - 85% of your maximum heart rate
To figure out your target heart rate, you simply multiply your maximum heart rate by the percent range. So if you’re 45 years old, if we want a target heart rate in the moderate exercise intensity range, you would multiply 175 (the maximum heart rate) by .5 and by .7. Your target heart rate is between 88 and 123 beats per minute while we are exercising.
To prevent diabetes, lose weight, and improve your cardiovascular health, you want to participate in moderate exercise — 50% to 70% of max heart rate for at least 30 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week. This can be any exercise that increases your heart rate — biking, fast walking, cardio at the gym, exercise classes, swimming, etc.
We’re not talking about bodybuilding here, just increasing, or maintaining, muscle mass to stay healthy. Researchers found that each 10% increase in muscle mass correlated to a 23% drop in prediabetes.
Just a few minutes of strength training every other day can make a huge difference for your health. Make sure you are building and strengthening your muscles at least 3 times a week!
Add diabetes prevention to yoga’s long list of health perks. Studies show that yoga increases the rate at which glucose moves from the blood into our cells. It also reduces levels of stress hormones, which can cause an accumulation of abdominal fat and interfere with the secretion of insulin.
Dr. Nancy will do a yoga series, so stay tuned if you need some yoga tips!
Get enough magnesium in your diet
Okay, so we talked about nutrition, we talked about exercise, what else can you do to prevent diabetes? Supplement with specific vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
Magnesium is an underutilized, often overlooked, nutritional powerhouse mineral that plays a key role in over 300 biochemical reactions with hundreds of enzymes in our bodies — including many involved in metabolizing glucose. Magnesium deficiency is often seen in people with diabetes because low levels of magnesium are associated with insulin resistance. People with insulin sensitivity or resistance also lose excess magnesium in their urine, contributing to lower levels within their body.
Studies published in the Journal of Internal Medicine confirm that adequate levels of magnesium can decrease a person's risk of diabetes by 15%.
It’s also important to point out that people who are deficient in magnesium are also commonly deficient in other essential minerals, including potassium, calcium, and especially boron. Now, you can look to get your magnesium and other essential minerals through whole food sources — magnesium, specifically, is found in foods like almonds, spinach, cashews, black beans, edamame, nut butters, avocados, and leafy green vegetables — but to make sure you get enough magnesium and other essentials, try Smarter Multi daily. It’s a great multivitamin for many reasons, but one in particular is that it’s full of minerals derived only from organic food sources, not synthetic. In fact, the magnesium in Smarter’s multi comes from Okra, Spearmint, Sesame, Dill, and Sunflower.
Sprinkle on the Cinnamon
About two teaspoons of cinnamon per day may lower your blood sugar levels by up to 30%. Cinnamon helps facilitate the movement of glucose out of the blood. You can eat cinnamon any way you like, but for an anti-diabetes double-whammy, add a dash to your coffee, oatmeal, or smoothie.
Reduce Chronic Inflammation in Your Body
The right natural foods work wonders when it comes to regulating your blood sugar and decreasing the damaging effects of chronic inflammation — especially when it comes to diabetes. However, the reality is that it's just not practical (or possible for many people) to get all the inflammation-reducing support you need from just food.
We know that nobody wants to hear that taking more pills is the answer, but fortunately, less is more when it comes to supplements that lower your inflammatory load. There is one supplement formula in particular that is such an inflammation-fighting powerhouse, that Dr. Nancy recommends it as part of everyone’s daily routine: curcumin, the active compound found in turmeric.
It only makes up about 2-3% of the turmeric root, but when formulated properly it can have an amazing effect within your body. In fact, Smarter Curcumin is a whopping 250 times more potent an inflammation-fighter than Turmeric itself. It’s the best quality curcumin supplement on the market!
So, a quick review. Diabetes is one of the most dangerous, but preventable, chronic diseases out there. Over 100 million Americans are either considered diabetic or pre-diabetic, but the good news is that an estimated 90% of type 2 diabetes diagnoses can be prevented with the lifestyle changes we recommended today, including
- Eating whole grains
- Filling up on fiber
- Drinking coffee (organic, decaf coffee)
- Making sleep a priority
- Getting your heart rate pumping at least 3 times per week
- Building some muscle, with resistance and strength-training
- Practicing Yoga
- Supplementing with Magnesium
- Eating Cinnamon on a regular basis
- And reducing dangerous inflammation through a healthy diet and supplementing with curcurmin.
So, there you have it, our top 10 ways you can help prevent — or reverse — diabetes. Stay tuned for more tips all week as part of Dr. Nancy’s Prevention series.