4 Simple Lifestyle Changes for Diabetes Prevention

There's a not-so-sweet reality to Filipinos’ state of health: one out of five is diabetic or pre-diabetic, according to the Philippine Star. With November being Diabetic Awareness Month, we’re here to spread knowledge and awareness about diabetes and different ways to prevent it.

Before we dive into tips about diabetes, what are the different types of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes, in which the body can’t produce insulin, mostly affects children. Type 2, on the other hand, hits about 90-95 percent of patients, rendering them unresponsive to insulin. Not only is diabetes prevalent, though, but the disease statistics are growing at an alarming rate. As cited in one study, around 50,000 died in 2017 due to diabetes-related complications. The number will shoot up to 20 percent two decades from now if no major intervention is done. 

Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for Type 1 diabetes. Type 2, on the other hand, is more genetic. But this doesn’t mean that everyone predisposed to the disease is doomed to a life of physical complications. It doesn’t mean that a healthy life isn’t necessary, either. When you know you’re vulnerable, embracing lifestyle changes that cut down disease risk, should all the more be a family priority. This is because the people around you heavily influence most of the lifestyle factors that contribute to or worsen the disease. 

The fact is diabetes prevention is possible. As such, below are some diabetes prevention measures you can do as a family. Although these are carefully researched, they're not intended to replace our doctor’s advice. On the contrary, it’s highly advisable that you follow a physician-approved diabetes prevention program since that is tailored to your unique health needs. Just the same, below are lifestyle changes you can embrace to reduce your risk to this disease:

1. Have a healthy diet

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The food you eat directly affects your blood sugar, weight, and risk for chronic diseases. For this reason, a nutritious diet is your first diabetes prevention tip. 

First, be mindful of what you consume. Make it your goal to have a variety of healthy food choices for each meal you take. Remember the magic five diabetes prevention foods: vegetables, fruits, lean protein, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains. 

Some of the best veggies you want to incorporate in your diet are broccoli, lettuce, and eggplant (the same goes for the kids). These vegetables have a low glycemic index (GI) ranking, which means consuming them won’t result in blood glucose spikes. In terms of fruits, fortunately, apples, bananas, and oranges have low GI; thus, they can be part of a proper diet for diabetes prevention. 

For adults focused on Type 2 diabetes prevention, the number of daily calories you need would depend on your weight, health status, etc. It would be best to ask your doctor about this. 

Doctors generally advise eating small meals throughout the day instead of one big meal during lunch or dinner. This helps prevent sugar spikes keeps you full, at the same time. Small meals control hunger pangs better. Combine this with diabetes prevention exercises, and you'll reduce the possibility of weight gain, a risk factor for diabetes. Try these healthy easy-to-prepare recipes at home.

2. Keep the sweets away

Of course, no diabetes prevention diet is complete, if you don't keep an eye on consuming sweets. The trick is not to cut sugary treats completely from your family's diet. Doing so will only lead to cravings. Rather, consume sweets in moderation. For instance, eat them after a meal instead of as a standalone snack. Or maybe, ask the kids to be more mindful about each bite to avoid overeating. The bottom line is to be very discerning of the types of food you eat for effective diabetes prevention.

3. Have an active lifestyle

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There’s no use eating well if you’re a couch potato. A sedentary lifestyle is going to cost you your health. So aside from prioritizing nutritious eating for diabetes prevention, quit sitting all day every day in front of your work station and get moving. Remember, physical activity increases the insulin sensitivity of the cells. The body uses less insulin in controlling blood sugar when you exercise. So which types of workouts are ideal for your diabetes prevention program?

The first and the easiest on the list of exercises for diabetes prevention is walking. The body uses fatty acids to power up your body when you perform a moderate exercise such as this. That’s good news since fatty acids keep your body from processing insulin. As exercise uses that up, you curb your risk for chronic disease. So make it a habit to walk for at least half an hour around your condo complex. You could even organize this as a family activity or bonding time with the kids. 

Weight training is another effective exercise you can include in your diabetes prevention game plan. Weightlifting helps you lose excess fats while it builds your muscles. Plus, it improves your insulin sensitivity—a real benefit, especially for Type 2 diabetes prevention. Hit the gym this weekend, and join a strength training class.

4. Practice effective stress management

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Aside from a healthy diet and lifestyle, it’s also important to consider how you deal with stress, in relation to your diabetes prevention program. Experts theorize that acute and chronic stress increases the risk of developing diabetes. The hormone cortisol released when you’re feeling tense alters insulin sensitivity. Add to that, a person resorts typically to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking and overdrinking alcohol, when facing too much stress. In the case of diabetics, this quickly makes the blood sugar out of control. 

Hence, rethink the way you handle stress in life. Take note of the 3 R’s of effective stress management: reduce, release, and relax.

If the five-hour traffic on EDSA irks you every day, find a different route to work to reduce your stress on the road. Or, work out vigorously at your condo's gym to release all that tension and experience the rush of endorphins. At the end of your day, get a massage or a mani-pedi or take a warm bath to relax. In other words, take a healthy approach when dealing with stress, as part of your diabetes prevention plan.

The statistics on the prevalence of diabetes in the Philippines paints a not-so-sweet picture. Don’t be another statistic. Take the aforementioned tips for diabetes prevention seriously. Reduce your risk by striving to become healthy, active, and stress-free.

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