Because prevention is better than cure
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that way back in 2009 already affected 2 million South Africans. That was over a decade ago so we can be sure that the numbers are far higher by now, many of whom are still undiagnosed.
The good thing is that Type 2 is positively influenced by diet and lifestyle changes.
In this article, we share risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes as well as natural ways to prevent it.
As always, if you have any concerns with your health or are taking any medications, please check with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet or lifestyle.
What is Type 2 diabetes?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):
If you have type 2 diabetes, cells don’t respond normally to insulin; this is called insulin resistance. Your pancreas makes more insulin to try to get cells to respond. Eventually your pancreas can’t keep up, and your blood sugar rises, setting the stage for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar is damaging to the body and can cause other serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.The CDC
Who is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes?
There are some lifestyle factors that influence your chance of getting type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Luckily, many of these are within our control.
Extra body mass affects the body’s ability to utilise the hormone insulin.
“Anyone who is overweight and/or obese has some kind of insulin resistance, but diabetes only develops in those individuals who lack sufficient insulin secretion to match the degree of insulin resistance.”
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Older patients are at higher risk of developing diabetes. This is because they are less active than when they were younger. It’s important to exercise and stay active throughout your life to prevent developing diabetes.
Even though lifestyle factors play a role in developing type 2 diabetes, there is also a link with genetics. That being said, just because a family member has it, doesn’t automatically mean you will get it. However, individuals with a family history of diabetes must take more care in practising ways to prevent it.
People of African, Native Indian, Asian, Latin and Hispanic descent are at higher risk of developing diabetes.
Patients who had gestational diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent in women who developed it during pregnancy.
Natural ways to prevent type 2 diabetes
Do more exercise
Less exercise means that the body stores more glucose in the form of glycogen. Glucose is used as energy and burns it as “fuel.” This is why when you exercise more, your muscles will burn through this energy source.
Exercise also increases your muscles sensitivity to insulin, which is why it is so helpful for people struggling with insulin resistance.
Staying active will help you prevent type 2 diabetes and reduce your chances of developing other diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Eat less sugary foods
Pretty much everyone knows that sugar is bad for your health. Sugar converts into glucose so that the body can use it for energy. But an excess of sugar makes it harder for the body to manage the sugar levels in the blood, especially if you are insulin resistant.
And by sugar, we don’t just mean sweets and chocolates. An excess of carbohydrates (pizza, pasta, bread, pastries, crisps etc.) is just as unhealthy for your body.
To prevent type 2 diabetes (as well as many other diseases), it’s far healthier to obtain carbohydrates from starchy vegetables like pumpkin, butternut, gem squash, carrots, peas and sweet potato.
These vegetables are high in fibre so they release sugar more slowly into the bloodstream. They are also packed full of micronutrients which are vital for health.
Drink more water
Few beverages are as pure and healthy as water. Water has no sugar and no calories. It can quench your thirst and is vital for the health of tissues and cells.
Try to avoid sugary beverages like cold drinks (fizzy drinks), nectar fruit juices and energy drinks. These drinks put people at a higher risk of having diabetes.
This goes for “diet” or “zero calorie” drinks as well. Artificial sugar is also harmful to your health so rather stick with herbal teas and just plain water.
Maintain a healthy body weight
Your body weight must be “in check” all the time. Overweight patients must try to lose weight. As we’ve already mentioned that being overweight makes it harder for the body to absorb the sugar in the blood.
If you want to prevent type 2 diabetes, you will need to shed excess weight.
The main ingredients of these diets are animal protein, healthy fats and vegetables. If anything, we can learn a thing or two when from ancient humans who roamed the world centuries ago. They only fed off the land and ate natural foods.
In the same way, they lived longer and their bodies stronger.
It’s hard to quit smoking “cold turkey”, but try as you must to reduce the chances of developing diabetes. Smokers are at higher risk because smoking can make the body resistant to insulin.
According to the CDC, smokers are 30–40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers.
Smoking cigarettes not only lead to diabetes but also other health conditions and diseases. Some of these include cardiovascular disease, cancer and emphysema to name a few.
Eat appropriate portions
For diabetic or pre-diabetic patients, portion sizes are very important. Bigger portions of food in one go makes it difficult for the body to produce and respond to insulin. Prediabetic patients can improve their health by eating healthy and eating smaller portions.
Additionally, smaller portions will help with weight loss.
Do regular checkups at your GP
It’s important to get regular overall health checks with your doctor, whether you’re healthy, pre-diabetic or already diabetic.
Testing your glucose levels is important to detect any early stages of the disease. Most people are unaware that they are already at type 2 and this is what makes it even more important to keep “tabs” on your blood results.
Speak with your doctor about incorporating healthy lifestyle changes that could improve your blood sugar control.
Avoid becoming accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that more than 75% of the world’s population live sedentary lifestyles. These stats include people living in a third world, developing and developed countries.
Slipping into a sedentary lifestyle is easy when you’re not accustomed to an active lifestyle as a kid. In fact, children who lead active lifestyles from a young age are more likely to adopt the same practice as they become older.
Many people tend to lead sedentary lifestyles if they work from home, or work in an office job.
Becoming more active will not only help you prevent type 2 diabetes but will also improve the health of your heart, muscles and bones.
Bonus: 5 Foods to help you control your blood sugar
Since looking to prevent diabetes, a good start would be to practice healthier food choices.
Sugar is bad for your health and may lead to the following diabetic conditions or complications:
- Slow to heal sores
- Frequent infections
- Heart disease
- Vision loss or complete blindness
- Kidney failure
As a bonus to our list of ways to prevent type 2 diabetes, here are some foods that will help to keep blood sugar levels stable:
While garlic adds that aromatic flavour to food, it also has the potential to lower blood sugar levels. Garlic is also a popular ingredient in natural diabetic medication and supplements.
Yoghurt provides many health benefits including being an essential aid to the health and wellness of your gut. Yoghurt balances the good flora and lowers blood sugar levels. It is a naturally low Glycemic Index (GI) food.
Nuts are powerhouses and essential to any diet (if you’re not allergic). They help to lower blood sugar and are packed with healthy fats and antioxidants. Plain or natural nuts are a healthier pick compared to nuts with added flavour and coating.
Bran and oats
Breakfast is the start of the day and switching to oats or bran cereal is better for lowering blood sugar. The GI amounts in oats are as low as 55 or less in some cases. Bran cereals are also lower in GI. It helps digestion and keeps you fuller for longer.
When eaten in moderation, protein does not “spike” your sugar levels to the same extent as sugar. Protein is the building blocks of your body and essential for building and repairing tissues.
Choose lean protein sources such as fish and free-range chicken.
Closing thoughts on how to prevent type 2 diabetes
The best feeling in life is that of full health and vitality. Although we may be predisposed to certain diseases, it doesn’t mean we should sit back and give up.
We have a choice (our 2020 word of the year!) to eat healthy, nutritious foods and get regular exercise. And by doing so consistently, we are taking our power back and preventing type 2 diabetes.
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