5 Ways to Prevent Diabetes Without Medication

Pre-Diabetic? 5 Ways to Prevent Diabetes Without Medication

by Keriann Strickland of Diabetic Connect

A recent study shows adults can dramatically reduce their risk of getting Type 2 diabetes by adhering to a combination of five healthy-lifestyle habits.

Scientists from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health said people can lower their risk by as much as 80 percent by adopting these habits: following a healthy diet, maintaining an optimal body weight, being physically active, limiting alcohol use and not smoking.

The advice may sound familiar. Research has long shown that bad habits like drinking too much, unhealthy foods and smoking can increase risk of developing chronic disease, including diabetes. And previous studies have looked at the benefits of making one healthy lifestyle change at a time.

But this study – said to be the largest of its kind to date – is one of the first to consider the cumulative impact of multiple factors on diabetes risk.

The data was collected as part of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. The study’s participants were men and women who were all healthy and free of heart disease, cancer and diabetes and aged 50 to 71 when they joined the study in 1995 or 1996. More than 200,000 people filled out surveys about their lifestyle and diet and were then followed for more than a decade to see if they developed diabetes.

Daunted by the idea of making all these lifestyle changes at once? Start small. Each factor people incorporated into their lives may lower their diabetes risk by about 31 percent for men and 39 percent for women, according to the study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Of the five factors, the study suggests being overweight or obese is the strongest lifestyle determinant for whether a person develops diabetes – normal weight reduced risk by 70 percent for men, 78 percent for women. Normal weight was defined as not obese or overweight, with a body mass index less than 25. However, those who are already overweight or obese and struggle with losing weight may still be able to reduce their risk by adopting other healthy lifestyle factors.

The study also found that while family history of diabetes is strongly linked to the disease, people may be able to largely prevent or delay diabetes by leading a healthy lifestyle. In other words, risk may not be "predetermined" by genetics.

The other lifestyle indicators were defined as follows:

Not smoking. Never having regularly smoked or being smoke-free for at least 10 years.

Healthy diet. Eating a diet low in trans fats and refined or sugary carbohydrates, but high in fiber content and ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fats. Check out the Diabetic Connect site for healthy recipes.

Physically active. At least 20 minutes of moderate to intense exercise three or more times per week.

Limited drinking. Alcohol was consumed in moderation – two drinks or less a day for men, one drink or less for women.

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photo by John Nyboer

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