Diabetes affects millions of people on a worldwide level and is considered a chronic disease. If we don’t control it, it can lead to further complications and ailments such as kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, etc.
Before it occurs, there is a period when blood glucose levels remain high, but not so high as to be called that way. This is referred to as prediabetes.
According to certain estimations, about 70% of those diagnosed with this condition will eventually develop type II diabetes. But thankfully, the progression is not inevitable.
And while there are some risk factors we have no control over (such as genes, past behavior, and age), there are still plenty of things we can do to prevent the disease from occurring. Here are 15 ways how to do that.
1. Cutting Sugars and Refined Carbs
This can increase any risk we have of developing the disease, as both sugar and refined carbohydrates serve to increase our blood glucose levels and insulin levels. That is why it’s so important to avoid such foods, as it will help reduce our risk in the long run.
There are many studies that show this. A detailed analysis of 37 studies discovered that individuals who had the highest fast-digesting carb intakes had a 40% higher chance of developing the chronic condition in comparison to those who had the lowest intakes.
2. Regular Work Out
Another way to lower the risk is through regular physical activity. Exercising increases our cells’ sensitivity to insulin, which means that when we work out, maintaining our blood glucose levels is a bit easier and requires less insulin.
One particular study involving those with prediabetes made a crucial discovery. Those who did moderate exercise increased their sensitivity to insulin by 51%. Those who did higher-intensity exercise increased it by as much as 85%! But it’s important to note that this occurred strictly on workout days.
Indeed, not just prediabetic adults, but also those who are obese or overweight, benefited from such activity, which successfully reduced blood sugar and insulin resistance. Such exercises were, among others, short and intense exercises, strength training, interval training, and aerobic workouts.
More frequent workouts seem to be beneficial when it comes to improving function and insulin response. A study conducted on this subject stated that burning over 2000 calories a week through exercising was needed to achieve the benefits mentioned prior.
So, the most important thing is to choose an activity (or activities) we enjoy and can do on a regular basis without quitting after some time.
3. Water Should Be Our Primary Beverage
We all know that water is by far the healthiest and most natural beverage one can drink.
After all, by sticking to water, we will avoid all those unhealthy beverages which are more sugar than anything else. Not to mention some other questionable ingredients, including preservatives.
It is believed that such beverages like punch and soda have been connected to the potential development of type 2 diabetes, says LADA.
Another research showed that neither fruit juice, not beverages that are artificially sweetened were proper beverages for the prevention of the disease.
In comparison, drinking water may prove beneficial, particularly improved insulin response and blood glucose control.
And yet another study which lasted 24 weeks observed overweight adults who, while following a weight-loss regime, replaced any diet sodas with water. The results were a decrease in their lower fasting blood glucose and insulin resistance, as well as lower insulin levels.
4. If We’re Overweight or Obese, We Should Drop Some Pounds
While not every single individual diagnosed with the metabolic condition is overweight, a large percentage are. Many people carry excess fat around their abdominal area, which is called visceral fat.
This type of fat promotes both insulin resistance and inflammation, which increases one’s diabetes risk significantly.
And even though losing just a little will prove beneficial, many studies have suggested that the more weight we shed, the less our chances of developing the disease. This is shown by a study involving 1000 individuals.
We don’t have to starve ourselves in order to get in better shape. We should choose healthier methods, such as paleo, vegetarian and Mediterranean diets. Sticking to this new healthy daily diet will also make sure we maintain our good shape.
One other study discovered that obese individuals, after getting in better shape and experiencing an improvement in their insulin levels and blood glucose levels, saw an elevation in the same levels the moment they gained either a portion of the entire weight they had lost.
5. Quit Smoking
While this may sound cliché, we’d be doing our health and body a huge favor by quitting smoking, if we happen to be a smoker in the first place. Smoking has been linked to a vast number of illnesses, with emphysema, heart disease, etc.
Even second-hand smoking has been linked to type II diabetes. This is all according to an analysis of several studies. This goes particularly for heavy smokers.
Another study observed the risk in adult male smokers. 5 years after they had quit their risk was reduced by 13%. And in the long run, namely, after 20 years, their risk was the same as that of those who had never smoked in the first place.
6. Following a Diet Low in Carbs
Following a low-carb or ketogenic diet has witnessed a decrease in one’s risk, and not just by a little. And it’s not like only low-carb diets will get this effect, though they have the most scientific evidence backing them up.
People have constantly reported an increase in their insulin sensitivity. As well as a decrease in their insulin levels and blood glucose levels. A study that lasted 12 weeks showed this.
It’s common knowledge that if one limits his or her carbohydrate intake during a meal, their blood sugar levels will not rise nearly as much. Ketogenic or low-carb diets have also been shown to reduce one’s fasting blood sugar.
Not to mention improving our general health and getting in better shape. A number of studies have bared witness to this.
7. Keep an Eye on Portion Sizes
Even if we choose not to limit our carbs, we should still try and limit our portion size. Studies have shown time and time again how eating large meal portions at once (as opposed to smaller ones throughout the day) has led to much higher insulin and blood sugar levels.
This goes particularly for someone who already happens to be overweight. The opposite is true as well: cutting portion sizes helps reduce any risk.
In fact, a study lasting 2 years and involving men with prediabetes, discovered that those who practiced healthy nutrition habits and reduced their portions saw a 46% decrease in their risk of diabetes compared to those who didn’t make any lifestyle changes.
A different study witnessed a group that controlled their portion sizes, lower both their insulin and blood sugar levels during the course of 12 weeks. Which, naturally also lowered their chances of developing the disease.
8. Avoid a Sedentary Lifestyle
This is an especially important step in preventing this chronic condition. A sedentary lifestyle is when a person does little or no physical activity throughout the day. A number of observational studies have witnessed a connection between such a lifestyle and a larger risk of developing the disease.
As many as 47 studies say that those who spent most of their days sitting down had an increase of 91% of their risk. It’s not like we need to make some core changes. Anything as simple as taking short walks and moving around throughout the day.
Also, if we happen to have a desk job, it would do our health a world of good if we stood up and moved around for just a couple of minutes every hour. And yes, we know how hard it is to make changes in our way of life. Old habits, indeed, die hard.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim to make improvements, as they will be well worth it. One 12-month study gave young adults a special program for changing their sedentary lifestyle. Unfortunately, after this study had ended, researchers observed that the participants did not decrease their sitting time.
That’s why it’s crucial to start off with baby steps. In other words, set achievable and realistic goals. A good example is choosing the stairs instead of the elevator and standing while chatting on the phone. This is a great start to reducing any sitting tendencies. And once again, it will be well worth the effort.
9. Eating a High-Fiber Diet
Fiber is essential for a healthy gut as well as proper weight management. Studies involving prediabetic, obese, and elderly participants have proven that it helps in keeping one’s insulin and blood glucose levels low.
Fiber can be categorized into insoluble and soluble. The soluble kind absorbs water, whereas the other kind does not. Once in the digestive tract, the soluble fiber mixed with the water forms a type of gel that slows the rate at which one’s food is absorbed.
This is great since this also means a much slower rise in one’s blood glucose levels. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, has not been connected to lower blood sugars or any reduced risks.
10. Optimize Vitamin D Levels
This vitamin is very important when it comes to controlling our blood sugar. This is proven by many studies which say that those deficient in vitamin D (or whose blood levels are way too low) have a much higher risk of developing the chronic condition.
That’s why the majority of health organizations recommend a vitamin D level of at least 30 ng/ml. A specific study discovered that those with high vitamin D blood levels had a 43% lower chance of the disease than those whose levels were low.
Another observational study, this time from Finland, observed the effects of giving vitamin D supplements to children. Needless to say, the results were astounding.
Some other controlled studies have successfully proven that when people deficient in this vitamin take supplements, there is an improvement in the cells which produce insulin as well as a normalization of their blood glucose levels.
If we’re not a fan of supplements, some excellent food sources of this vitamin are fatty fish as well as cod liver oil. Exposing ourselves to some sunshine can also raise our vitamin D levels.
Though for some this may not be enough, and in that case, they’d need to turn to supplements in order to maintain proper amounts of vitamin D in their system.
11. Minimize Processed Food Intake
This step is advised for anyone, not just those seeking to maintain their blood sugar levels or those who fear that they may develop a lifelong disease.
Processed foods are never good news for our health or body. They may lead to many problems such as obesity and heart disease.
Ideally, we should completely avoid such foods, but if we find that is simply too hard, at least we should try and limit them as much as possible.
Numerous studies have shown that cutting back on packaged foods that are high in refined grains, additives or vegetable oils leads to positive health results as well as a reduction in one’s risk of developing the disease.
What to eat instead? There are plenty of tasty and healthy alternatives for us to choose from (or even mix them up to suit our personal taste). Vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other plant-based whole foods have nothing but positive things to offer our bodies.
One particular study found that those daily diets which were poor in quality and high in processed foods increased one’s risk by as much as 30%. Additionally, switching to whole, healthy, nutritious foods successfully lowered that risk.
12. Drink Tea or Coffee
We’ve already established that drinking water is the best way to go. But we can also add tea or coffee (or both) into our diet, as there is some proof of their potential in lowering the risk of the disease.
In fact, plenty of studies observed that the consumption of coffee on a regular, daily basis ended up reducing this risk by 8-54%! The greatest percentage, naturally, was in those with the highest consumption.
Similar results were seen in a review of several studies involving the consumption of coffee or caffeinated tea. Women and overweight men had achieved the best results.
This may be thanks to the polyphenol content of both tea and coffee. These are powerful antioxidants that show promise in protecting one against the disease.
Furthermore, green tea has a unique, special antioxidant compound named epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is praised for both increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing the liver’s blood glucose release.
13. Take Some of These Natural Herbs
There are several herbs that have shown positive results in reducing our chances of this condition(and even increasing our insulin sensitivity!).
It is the main component of the famed turmeric, which has been used for centuries in India but has now gained popularity in the western world as well.
Its potent anti-inflammatory properties not only work well against many different diseases such as arthritis. But they can also reduce inflammation in those with prediabetes.
A few studies reported an improvement in the progression of the disease and a reduction in insulin resistance. The functioning of the pancreas’s insulin-producing cells also seemed to increase.
This can be found in a number of herbs and has a long history of usage in traditional Chinese medicine. It not only combats inflammation but also lowers one’s cholesterol and any other markers of heart disease.
A couple of studies have shown that berberine has powerful blood sugar-reducing properties.
In fact, an analysis of 14 different studies reported that berberine is just as effective as the pharmaceutical drug metformin when it comes to the effective lowering of one’s blood glucose levels.
Thanks to all this, berberine may also be useful for prediabetics in their efforts to avoid chronic disease. But when it comes to this, many more studies need to follow.
A word of caution. We’d be wise not to use berberine together with any other medications we may be taking. Unless our doctor says it’s all right.
14. Choose Good Fats Over Bad
The type of fats we consume also play a key role in whether we are in danger of developing the chronic disease or not? That’s why we should never hesitate when it comes to opting for the good kind.
Who was aware that polyunsaturated fats found in seeds, nuts, and liquid vegetable oils can all aid in warding off diabetes? The opposite effect happens by consuming trans fats, found in fast food, fried foods, most margarine, and packaged baked goods.
All of these, along with any other product which has ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’ on its label, are a huge health hazard. Another thing we should know concerning the polyunsaturated fats we get from fish (which also go by the name of ‘marine omega-3 fats’).
Even though there is plenty of evidence that suggests these healthy fats can protect us against heart disease, they don’t seem to do anything about protecting us from the disease.
Still, in case we already have it, consuming fish can aid in keeping any heart attacks at bay. Or even from passing away due to heart disease. This is good news indeed, as a large percentage of people with this chronic condition happen to have cardiovascular-related issues.
15. Moderate Alcohol Consumption Might Actually Help
Yes, that’s right. There is plenty of proof that connects (controlled!) alcohol consumption to a reduced heart disease risk. Scientists suggest the same may apply when it comes to type II diabetes. What it does is increase insulin’s efficiency to get the blood glucose inside one’s cells.
But take heed, we are by no means saying people should turn to alcoholic beverages under the excuse that they are trying to protect themselves from the disease. Remember, the keyword here is ‘moderate’, which means one drink a day for women and two for men.
We should always keep in mind that higher alcohol amounts could have the opposite effect. Namely, they may increase our risk of developing a chronic condition, among other things. If, on the other hand, we don’t drink alcohol, we might stay that way.
We can achieve the same benefits through exercise, getting in shape, and a healthy daily diet.
The positive conclusion which we can deduce from all of this is that one has plenty of scientifically-proven ways of either preventing or managing their diabetes.
Moreover, one should not be so pessimistic as to view prediabetes as nothing but a ‘stepping stone’ to the lifelong disease. Instead, try and see it as a motivator for making some positive lifestyle changes, that way keeping the disease at bay.
One of the main lifestyle changes would be which foods we eat and which we should best stay away from. If people pay close attention and follow the advice given in this article, they should have no problem in reducing their risk of developing this serious condition.
Source: Health Line | NIDDK | HSPH Harvard