Change lifestyle habits to decrease diabetes risk

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 10, 2021

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An estimated one-in-three Americans are at risk for type 2 diabetes. More alarmingly, nearly 25 percent of people with the disease don’t realize they have it. However, the good news is that we can change habits to decrease diabetes risks.

Age, family history and lifestyle increase the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. Being overweight and physically inactive, along with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are major risk factors. While we cannot slow aging or alter family genetics, we can change lifestyle habits.

Research also shows the severity of COVID-19 triples in patients with diabetes. For many people, the pandemic has resulted in weight gain from stress eating, being more sedentary and getting less sleep.

Diabetes Self-Management Services at Thibodaux Regional provides comprehensive diabetes services including WellFit Diabetes Care, which integrates medical care with wellness practices to help you manage diabetes and lower risks. Ask your physician about WellFit or visit the website.

If you’re concerned about your wellbeing, start by changing everyday habits.

Eat a healthful diet.

The Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2021 recommends a Mediterranean-style diet low in carbohydrates and high in plant-based foods. Steer clear of highly processed foods that can increase the risk for diabetes and other diseases. These generally have higher calories that lead to weight gain and increased insulin resistance. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) website features a variety of flavorful recipes for healthy meal planning.

As Mother told you, breakfast is important. Skipping it can cause you to overeat the rest of the day. There’s no eggs-only breakfast rule, so add choices such avocado on whole-wheat toast, breakfast tacos or high-protein smoothies. If you start the day with caffeine, there’s good news. Some studies indicate that coffee can help lower diabetes risks.

Snack smarter and often.

Snacking throughout the day can be beneficial for managing weight and reducing diabetes risk. Naturally, snack in moderation to balance your appetite and prevent blood sugar lows. Resist a craving for ice cream and opt for smart snacks such as fresh fruit, hummus with veggies, cheese crisps or kale chips. A healthy alternative for a sweet tooth might be ricotta cheese sprinkled with dark chocolate chips.

Get up and move.

Studies show that regular exercise is key to reducing diabetes risk. The past year’s work-from-home environment has led to many people becoming more sedentary. ADA recommends not sitting for longer than 30 minutes. Set an alarm on your phone or laptop as a reminder every half hour to get up and move around.

A half-hour of regular, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, cycling or swimming can help maintain weight and lower insulin resistance. Research from Mayo Clinic also shows that adding strength training with weights or resistance bands can also reduce risks. Check with your provider before starting a new exercise program.

Increase the wind down.

The sleepless nights that many have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, increase the risk for diabetes. Chronic sleep deprivation may cause the body to release more stress hormones such as cortisol, which increase blood sugar. A lack of sleep also increases the appetite and cravings for carbs and sugar.

Insomnia, stress and carb packing create an unforgiving cycle that we can interrupt with healthy choices and exercise. Try adding mindful meditation and a regular yoga practice to your routine for a better night’s sleep.

Smoking—just don’t do it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of developing diabetes is 30% to 40% higher for smokers. Add to that higher risks for cancer, heart and pulmonary diseases. If you want to kick the habit, talk with your doctor about the “Quit Smoking for Life” smoking cessation program.