Diabetes is a huge and growing problem In South Africa. Just look at the stats:
- 1 826 100 adults have diabetes
- This amounts to 5.4% of the adult population
- Of these, 90% have type 2 diabetes
Since scientists believe lifestyle factors contribute to the development of the type 2 diabetes, adopting healthier life habits can help people prevent it. Diabetes SA recommends you focus on the following aspects of health to protect you and your family from developing this disease:
Healthy dietA healthy diet for avoiding diabetes is one in which your blood glucose levels are prevented kept low and even. According to the Harvard T Chan School of Public Health, there are four dietary changes that have a big impact on the risk of type 2 diabetes:
Choose whole grains over highly processed carbohydrates
The bran and fibre in whole grains leads to lower, slower increases in blood sugar and insulin.
Skip sugary drinks and opt for water or unsweetened coffee or tea
A study found that women who drink one or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day had an 83% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to women who drank less than one sugar-sweetened beverage a month.
Choose good fats instead of bad fats
Polyunsaturated fats found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds can help ward off type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, trans fats, the bad fats found in many margarines, packaged baked goods, fried foods and in most fast foods contribute to the disease. Avoid products with “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on their labels.
Limit red meat and avoid processed meats
Instead, choose nuts, whole grains, poultry or fish. According to the School of Public Health, there is growing evidence that eating red meat (beef, lamb) and processed red meat (bacon, hot dogs, deli meats) increases the risk of diabetes, even if you only eat small amounts.
Swapping red and processed meats for nuts, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish or whole grains cut the risk of diabetes by 35%.
Top tip: Snack foods are often the biggest source of sugar and bad fats - specially for kids! Get your family into healthier snack habits. Buy or make your own hummus or cottage cheese dip, and offer it with carrot sticks, little tomatoes and sliced cucumber when your kids get the home-from-school munchies.
A good exercise routine
According to the American Diabetes Association, a well-rounded exercise routine can help lower your risk of diabetes. They say that a complete physical activity routine includes four kinds of activities:
- Continuous activity—walking, using the stairs, moving around—throughout the day
- Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, or dancing
- Strength training, like lifting light weights
- Flexibility exercises, such as stretching
They recommend finding reasons to stay active during the day, and, if you are not someone who naturally focuses on fitness, getting a personal trainer, gym buddy or work-out group to help you to get started and stay committed.
However, even just walking for 150 minutes a week can decrease your risk of developing diabetes by 40% to 60%.
Top tip: Make keeping fit a part of your family’s week by finding an activity you can all do together - like cycling or walking, and schedule these in so that you don’t miss out.
Weight controlThe single biggest predictor of type 2 diabetes is obesity. But even slender people are at greater risk if they carry their weight around their belly. This type of weight is called “visceral” fat, and its external presence indicates that there is extra fat stored around the internal organs as well. The tendency to develop this type of fat is linked to genetics, but it’s still possible to reduce it with a healthy lifestyle.
Follow the diet and exercise recommendations laid out in the previous points and weight loss should follow, but if you find that you are struggling to move those extra kilos (or belly inches), visit a dietician or doctor for a specific diet plan and potential medication to aid your weight-loss.
Top tip: To give your children a positive outlook on body image, it’s better to focus on health and fitness than on weight - and if you focus on these aspects, a healthy weight should follow.
Stress ReductionThe American Diabetes Association explains that stress causes a fast and substantial increase in blood glucose levels, and can also lead to compulsive, poor eating and a disrupted exercise routine, all of which contribute to a heightened risk of diabetes.
Dr Joseph Napora, a psychotherapist writing for the association, recommends identifying the right tools for preventing avoidable stress and keeping unavoidable stress at a minimum. See what works for you and your family.
Top tip: Continual access to phones and social media contributes to stress levels. Make sure you have screen-free family time and personal time every day.
Quit smokingSmokers are 30% to 40% more likely to develop diabetes than non-smokers, according to the Centre for Disease Control – and the more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk.
Quitting may help your whole family lower diabetes risk. Research has shown that type 2 diabetes rates increased with second-hand smoke exposure in childhood and adulthood.
Top tip: Check out these scientifically proven ways to quit smoking , and choose the one you think will work best for you.
Get healthy for all the good reasonsThis simple diabetes-prevention health plan - quitting smoking, exercising, eating right and reducing stress – is good for your health, and that of your whole family. The good news is that you will reduce your risk of developing all sorts of other lifestyle diseases as well – including cancer, heart disease, strokes and hypertension. So make good health a family goal in the year ahead.