Diabetes is a serious illness. This chronic disease disrupts the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, lower limb amputation, and even early death (1). The number of people living with diabetes worldwide is already at epidemic proportions and is predicted to rise even higher. In Canada, 3.4 million people – 9.3% of the population – were living with diabetes in 2015, with that figure predicted to grow to 5 million (12.1% of the population) by 2025 (2).
While these are alarming facts, there are ways that you can avoid becoming a statistic and prevent diabetes and the challenges that go along with it.
Think you’re not at risk? Some of the main risk factors for diabetes are overweight or obesity, consistently eating unhealthy foods, and leading a sedentary lifestyle, which can cause the amount of sugar in your blood to rise. Higher than normal blood sugar is called “pre-diabetes,” which can lead to diabetes over time (3). Recent research shows that combined diet and exercise programs can help otherwise healthy adults lower their risk of high blood sugar and prevent diabetes (4;5;6).
Sure, you’ve heard it all before: eating right and exercising are good for you. But what exactly should you eat and do to avoid diabetes? Recent research provides some answers.
What the research tells us
What is a “healthy diet” when it comes to diabetes prevention? Restricting high calorie and high fat foods is a good first step, and research shows that low carbohydrate diets work to help decrease blood sugar (4;6;7;8). The Mediterranean Diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet also help control blood sugar and reduce other risk factors associated with diabetes (9;10).
As for exercise, the best choices are activities you enjoy, since you are most likely to keep doing them! For optimal results, try aerobic training which is proven to help regulate blood sugar; the benefits are even greater with higher intensity activity levels (6;11). And why not mix things up by taking a yoga class? There’s sound evidence that – among other benefits – yoga helps lower blood sugar (13;14).
If you’re not already in the habit of eating well and exercising regularly, preventing diabetes is one more compelling reason to commit to those important lifestyle changes.