Most of us have friends or family members close to our lives that have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Ask any of them if they would rather have avoided this chronic disease – and you'd likely get a passionate "yes!"
No one wants to develop diabetes. And yet, knowing all that we know about how to prevent diabetes – people all over the country are still developing this disease. In 2010, 25 million Americans had diabetes, and two years later in 2012, that number rose to 29 million Americans. As the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, type 2 diabetes is a contributing factor to almost all of the other leading causes of death in the United States as well—including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease.
We have a warning signal – known as pre-diabetes—or insulin resistance, that gives us huge red flag. If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes or insulin resistance, there is some great news! You are absolutely not doomed to progress forward into diabetes. You can delay and most likely prevent the development of this disease by reducing your diabetes risk factors. There are quite a few things you can do to reduce your risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes.
Living with diabetes is no walk in the park. People who have uncontrolled type 2 diabetes are at a much greater risk of developing blindness and other eye problems, as well as kidney disease, amputations, and blood clots. These conditions are a direct consequence of diabetes, and can make living with diabetes nearly unbearable.
Some of the reasons that people who have prediabetes or insulin resistance progress further to develop full-blown type 2 diabetes are called "diabetes risk factors". A risk factor just means that if this is true about you, then you are increasing your odds of developing diabetes, compared to your odds without that specific risk factor. Some risk factors you cannot change, like your age, race, or your gene pool. But the risk factors that contribute the most to the development of type 2 diabetes are modifiable – meaning you have the power to change or reverse them.
Whether or not you develop diabetes can actually be in your hands. You have a say. You have a choice. More than ever research is showing that even if your gene pool has diabetes coursing through your family tree, you can still avoid it by maintaining a normal body weight, exercising, getting enough sleep, managing your stress level, and eating healthy, balanced meals.
Some of the main risk factors that are associated with the development of diabetes are entirely under our own control.
Here's a list of the top 6 diabetes risk factors that you can do something about.
Not Moving Around
Also known as a ‘sedentary lifestyle' or inactivity, a lack of daily movement or structured exercise can be one of the biggest diabetes risk factors. Sitting at a desk, computer time, watching extended hours of TV, or just not being physically active contributes to a higher weight, higher blood pressure, and of course, an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
"The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a major federally funded study of 3,234 people at high risk for diabetes, showed that people can delay and possibly prevent the disease by losing a small amount of weight (5 to 7 percent of total body weight) through 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week and healthier eating."
Too Much Dietary Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates
Excess sugar and simple carbohydrate intake is associated with increase diabetes risk because these two foods cause your body to release insulin, and sometimes, a lot of insulin. Over time, the organ systems that have to respond to carbohydrate and sugar overload –like your pancreas—begin to wear out, and your body cannot balance your blood sugars as well.
Not getting enough sleep is linked to an increased risk of developing diabetes. Make sure you aim for around 7 hours per day, to help reduce diabetes risk.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that causes weight gain, and can cause blood sugar imbalances. Making sure you exercise and take measures to manage stress and wind down is essential to help reduce your risk of diabetes. Meditation, relaxation, and deep breathing are all proven ways to help manage stress. Exercise works very well to help reduce cortisol levels as well.
As it turns out, the more fat cells you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin. And that's just the beginning. Leptin resistance, inflammatory chemicals and other biomarkers associated with extra fat cells can also increase your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, not to mention high blood pressure as well.
Abnormal Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels
When you are not eating right, certain blood tests can get out of whack. When your good cholesterol, or HDL is too low then you are at an increased risk for developing diabetes. When your triglycerides are too high, your risk for diabetes goes up as well. Making sure that you eat right and exercise can help balance your blood lipids and help reduce your diabetes risk.
Other diabetes risk factors include polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, which is a hormonal issue that can cause infertility, weight gain, and abnormal hair growth in women. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, is a risk factor for developing diabetes as well, especially in children.
Taking steps to lose weight and maintain a normal body weight by being active a little bit every day is that absolute hands-down best way to prevent type 2 diabetes, even if you have already been diagnosed with prediabetes or insulin resistance.