Reducing the risk of developing diabetes
Most Americans are fortunate to have a lifestyle that leads to a long life. In fact, since the Industrial Revolution, life expectancy has doubled, from about 40 years to nearly 80 years.
But while Americans are living longer, they may not necessarily have a better quality of life, especially as they age. Every-day conveniences and comforts coupled with too much food and lack of exercise contribute to the development of chronic illnesses like diabetes.
But UC Davis endocrinologist Pamela-Kim T. Prescott says many individuals can stay healthy and active throughout their lives by following a few simple guidelines:
Achieve and maintain a normal body weight. The best path to lifelong weight control is to modify eating habits to consistently eat fewer calories from a variety of nutritious foods. If medications are needed, talk to your doctor about available options. Weight loss is the hardest step, but the other two steps can help you achieve it.
Eat 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. Research has consistently shown that fiber — found only in fruits, vegetables, whole wheat breads, cereals, legumes and other plant foods — can help prevent diabetes. Prescott recommends eating 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day, about double the amount found in the average American diet. For those with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends consuming 40 grams of fiber per day.
As a general guide, fruits and vegetables typically contain 2 to 4 grams per serving. Cereals consisting mainly of bran may contain as much as 8 grams of fiber per serving. Oatmeal provides about 3 grams. Breads vary depending on the proportion of whole wheat flour it contains. Lentils, split peas and beans provide between 5 and 8 grams of fiber per serving.
Exercise every day. Prescott recommends two to three miles of brisk walking, or spend from 30 to 60 minutes on another moderate exercise, most days a week. Research has consistently shown that regular exercise not only helps to prevent diabetes, but also lowers the rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, breast and colon cancer and overall mortality. Exercise is also essential to include in a weight-loss plan so that fat is lost rather than muscle.
A problem of poor diet and lack of exercise. Type II diabetes, formerly known as adult-onset diabetes, is a problem of carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. Rather than being caused by a lack of insulin, as in juvenile, or type I diabetes, Type II diabetes is caused by the development of insulin resistance, which causes sugar to accumulate in the blood.
The effects of high blood sugar are profound. It leads to blindness, kidney failure and circulation problems severe enough to require foot or leg amputations. The mortality rate for patients with diabetes is up to 11 times above the average.
Doctors have known for a long time that diabetes is exacerbated by excess body fat, a diet high in fat and refined carbohydrates, and a lack of exercise. Unfortunately, these factors have become so common in the United States that the prevalence of type II diabetes has increased dramatically, and it is appearing in people of younger ages than ever before.