The numbers are nuts: More than 25 million people in the United States have diabetes - and that's almost 10 percent of the population.
Here's what's even crazier: Making just one key lifestyle change can cut your chances of developing type 2 diabetes by roughly one-third, suggests a new government study that collected data on more than 200,000 adults. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) looked at how five specific lifestyle factors affected diabetes risk. They found that individually, each factor could lower your odds by about 30 percent; the combination of all five may reduce risk by about 80 percent - even if you have a family history of diabetes. Here are the five changes to make:
Drop extra pounds
The more fatty tissue you have, the tougher it is for your body to make and use insulin properly, which can cause too much glucose to build up in your blood. Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes; in fact, the NIH study suggests that just being at a healthy weight reduces your risk by up to 70 percent. Every pound you lose improves your health.
The list of benefits speaks for itself: Exercise helps you lose weight, lower your blood sugar and boost insulin sensitivity. Shoot for at least 20 minutes a day; brisk walking is an excellent option, and so is going for a bike ride. A recent study from the University of California-Los Angeles found that increasing muscle mass may help lower your risk as well, so include both aerobic exercise and resistance training.
Eat more fiber and whole grains
Both help improve blood sugar levels and reduce your risk. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds; to increase your intake of whole grains, switch to brown rice and whole-wheat pasta. More healthy eating tips: Choose lean meats and non-fat dairy products, have fish a few times a week, cook with liquid oils instead of solid fats, and cut back on the snacks and sweets.
Heavy smokers - those who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day - almost double their risk of developing diabetes, when compared with non-smokers.
Stick to one or two drinks max
That's one for women, two for men: A little alcohol is fine, but drinking too much, too often can cause chronic inflammation of the pancreas, which can impair its ability to secrete insulin and ultimately lead to diabetes.
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