While there are genetic factors, there are also many environmental factors that can decrease the chances of a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Athlon Sports caught up with the Cleveland Clinic’s Drs. Mary Vouyiouklis Kellis and Robert Zimmerman to discuss tips for diabetes prevention during National Diabetes Month in November.
“People with a genetic tendency to develop diabetes if they become overweight may not get it if they maintain a normal body weight,” says Zimmerman. Being overweight can keep your body from making and using insulin properly. The higher the weight, the higher the risk. A few pounds can make a difference. Rather than aim for dramatic weight loss, try to lose 10 to 15 pounds by eating healthier and increasing exercise.
You are what you eat — and how much you eat. “Eating healthy is very important,” says Kellis. “Reducing fine sugars, sugary sweets and beverages, and making sure you add protein, whole grains, fiber and vegetables to your diet.” Get protein sources low in saturated fat (turkey, fish, chicken) and vegetable protein that’s also high in fiber (beans, mushrooms). Also, avoid simple sugars (sodas, sweets, snacks) and use canola or olive oil in cooking, both of which have unsaturated fats.
Exercise helps you lose weight, and keep blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides at optimal levels. Even just 30 minutes per day, five days a week can help. Use the stairs instead of elevators, or go for a walk or bike ride. Set small, easily attainable goals, like walking for 10 minutes once a day. Set timelines to track your progress, but weigh yourself just once a week, on the same day and at the same time each week. Other benefits to changing your lifestyle: You’ll look and feel your best.
“Stress puts your body into a flight or fight mode,” says Kellis. “As a result, your levels of hormone such as adrenaline and cortisol rise. This can impact your blood glucose levels. If you have pre-diabetes, these increases in blood glucose levels can’t be effectively lowered because you’re insulin-resistant.” Another problem with stress is that the increase in cortisol can make you want to eat more than you should. And people who stress-eat are more likely to gain weight.
Being overweight can keep your body from making and using insulin properly. But there are several other risk factors that may increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. These include high blood pressure (140/90 or higher), abnormal cholesterol levels (HDL cholesterol at 35 or lower, or triglyceride level at 250 or higher) and ethnicity (African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, American Indian or Pacific Islander).