Reduce your risk of diabetes today with these 15 tips
As you get older, the chance of developing diabetes gets higher - did you know that around 1 in 7 older people have diabetes? The number of people in the UK with diabetes has risen from 1.4 million in 1996 to 2.6 million today, and it's continuing to rise, with experts predicting the figure will reach over 4 million by 2025 (1). 9 out of 10 of these cases are type 2 diabetes, the type that is preventable.
It's not clear what causes diabetes, but experts agree that there are a number of factors which can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Here are 15 tips to help you reduce your risk, today.
Shedding those excess pounds will reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes - 80% of those with diabetes are overweight. Measure your waist - anything over 31.5 inches for women or 37 inches for men means it could be time to go on a diet! This doesn't mean you need to drastically change what you eat - just ensure you're eating a well-balanced diet, with healthy snacks and smaller portion sizes.
#2. Quit smoking
We know smoking is bad for us - it's linked to cancer. But did you know it's also connected to an increased risk of diabetes? That's because smoking increases blood pressure levels, a major cause of diabetes. Even cutting back the number of cigarettes smoked a day can help. If you need support to quit, the NHS offers a free stop smoking service.
#3. Get active
Not only will increasing your activity levels help you to lose weight, it will also boost your energy levels and your mood, and it could reduce your risk of diabetes by up to 64%. You should never start an exercise programme without consulting your GP, particularly if you are older or unfit. Even activities such as gardening and walking can help you to be more active - we should all aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of activity every day.
#4. Cut back on booze
Drinking alcohol can easily lead to weight gain, as it's a source of empty calories. Drinking heavily could also cause conditions such as chronic pancreatitis - diabetes is a known side effect. Excessive drinking can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, so trying to cut back is a great idea. You don't need to cut out drinking altogether, but carefully monitoring your alcohol consumption and avoiding binge drinking on the weekends or nights out can help reduce your risk of diabetes.
#5. Get some sunshine
A study carried out at Malaga University in Spain revealed a link between vitamin D levels and diabetes risk. It seems that those with low vitamin D levels are more likely to suffer from obesity and develop type 2 diabetes (2). Getting outside to go for a run, do some gardening or even go for a walk can help your body to form vitamin D when it's exposed to sunlight. Not only can this reduce your risk of diabetes, but vitamin D is also responsible for healthy muscles and bones and a properly-functioning immune system, which could reduce your risks of colds and flu!
#6. Head for Starbucks
A study of almost 9,000 people by researchers from University College London revealed that drinking three cups of tea or coffee a day could lower your risk of developing diabetes (3). Those who regularly make time for a cuppa generally have smaller waist measurements and lower BMI than those who drink less than a cup a day. The study also revealed that coffee was linked to lower blood pressure.
#7. Hit the weights
Increasing lean muscle mass can lower insulin resistance which can drop the odds of developing prediabetes, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism claims (4). In fact, the study revealed that for every 10% increase in muscle mass, the risk of prediabetes fell by 12%. Try to incorporate resistance training into your workout at least two to three times a week, to reduce your diabetes risk - there's no reason why women can't lift too!
#8. Get some shut-eye
Research carried out by scientists at the University of Chicago revealed that regularly getting less than six hours sleep a night raises your risk of developing diabetes. That's because lack of sleep can ramp up your body's insulin resistance, especially if you're already genetically predisposed to diabetes. Aim for a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night - eight is ideal.
#9. Chill out
Relaxing doesn't just feel good, it can help to alleviate chronic stress, which is a factor in many major diseases. Your body reacts to stress by releasing hormones which raise blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous for long-term health. Find ways to relax that work for you - try meditation, enjoy a massage, or take a bath with a good book.
#10. Fill up on fibre
Fibre is great for your digestion, but it can also help to prevent your blood sugar levels spiking after a meal, as it slows down the glucose entering your bloodstream. Choosing fruit that's packed with fibre, such as pears or raspberries, is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Or eat some brown rice - enjoying it two or more times a week could reduce your risk of developing diabetes by 11%.
#11. Get spicy
It's a good thing we're such big curry fans here in the UK, as all those spices could help to reduce our risk of developing diabetes. We're talking about one spice in particular though - cinnamon. Cinnamon is loaded with polyphenols, which can help insulin to do its job more effectively and can lower your blood sugar levels. Sprinkle some on your porridge or add it to your curry. Yum!
#12. Have some yoghurt
Research published in BMC Medicine revealed that yoghurt could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes - not other dairy products, just yoghurt. The study involved over 41,000 participants, who were queried every 2 years about their eating habits and monitored for up to 30 years. Over the years, over 15,000 participants developed diabetes, but a significantly reduced diabetes risk was evident in those who ate yoghurt. In fact, eating 28g of yoghurt daily resulted in an 18% lower risk of type 2 diabetes (5). It's not clear why this link exists - it could be that the probiotics in yoghurt improve insulin sensitivity, or that yoghurt's high protein content increases satiety. Or it could be that the calcium and magnesium it contains improves our metabolism, reducing the risk of diabetes. It's also possible that eating yoghurt is simply indicative of living a healthy lifestyle - eating well, not smoking or drinking etc.
#13. Eat your greens
A new study by research nutritionists at the University of Leicester has shown that eating more leafy green vegetables could reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that eating 1.5 servings of green leafy vegetables a day reduces the risk of developing diabetes by 14% (6).
#14. Eat more fruit
Health experts from Harvard School of Public Health examined the impact of eating fruit on type 2 diabetes risk. The scientists found that eating grapes, blueberries, apples, raisins and pears could significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes - those eating three servings of blueberries a week could reduce their risk by 26% (7). But drinking fruit juice could actually increase your risk by up to 8%. Replacing three servings of fruit juice a week with blueberries cuts the risk by 33%, whilst swapping your favourite juice for apples and pears could lower your risk by 14%. It's thought that the high glycaemic load of fruit juice could explain the increased risk - liquid passes through the stomach far faster than solids.
#15. Eat a healthy diet
Improving your diet can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Reduce the amount of salt and sugar that you eat, opt for low-fat dairy products (or give up dairy), buy whole-grain or whole-wheat pasta, bread and cereal and choose leaner meat such as turkey mince and chicken breasts. Ensure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables - whilst fresh is best, tinned or frozen are fine if you don't have fresh to hand.
READ THIS NEXT: Want a healthier heart? Try these 8 things today