Diabetes has become a major health problem, “approaching epidemic proportions globally,” according to an article published in the International Journal of Health Sciences. About 12.3 percent of all adults have diabetes and a whopping 25.9 percent of adults over the age of 65 in the United States have the disease.
That translates, according to the American Diabetes Association, to 30.3 million adults with diabetes, and 7.2 million of them are undiagnosed. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in America which experts say is grossly underreported since it is often an underlying and not a direct cause of death. Diabetes is a major contributory factor in cardiovascular disease.
What is diabetes? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is “the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use as energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies.”
But without insulin, the blood sugar levels can build up too high and cause damage to the body, especially to the kidneys, nerves of the hands and feet.
With Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, people can become insulin resistant which is a prime feature of the disease. Metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions characterized by excess weight, high blood pressure and elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood may trigger insulin resistance, along with obesity, pregnancy, stress, and inactivity.
However there are steps you can take to improve insulin resistance and reduce your risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes.
1.Exercise helps to clear out excess blood sugar from the body to use as energy instead of getting stored as fat. “Aim for at least 30-60 minutes of brisk walking or other forms of cardiovascular exercise, 3-5 times per week”, says Tara Collingwood, MS, RDN, a leading nutritionist and team dietitian for the Orlando Magic basketball team
2.Regular strength training to build or maintain muscle can also help with glucose and insulin control by raising the body’s metabolism therefore using excess glucose instead of storing it, says the expert.
- Eat foods that keep blood sugar levels low. Some foods are known to maintain a slower, steady need for insulin instead of causing sudden spikes. “This is known as the glycemic index,” explains Collingwood. “The properties of food that help mitigate how quickly blood sugar goes up are fiber, protein and fat. Always try to have one of these three food groups at every meal or snack. Nuts and seeds, dairy, fruits and vegetables and protein -rich foods are all lower in the glycemic index.
4.The Diabetes Council also recommends eating these specific foods to keep insulin and blood sugar low. They are avocado, banana, blueberries, cinnamon, garlic, peanut butter and slow-cooked oatmeal.
5.Avoids foods that cause insulin spikes. Just as there are beneficial foods that keep insulin levels in check, high-sugar foods such as candies and chocolates should be avoided. Avoid foods made with white flour and white rice. Watch out for dried fruits and energy drinks that can also spike insulin levels.
Follow a low-carbohydrate diet. According to an article in the journal Diabesity, eating a low-carb diet can help reduce a person’s insulin levels as well as promote weight loss and lower blood pressure. Examples are the Atkins, Mediterranean, South Beach and popular Paleo diets.
Lose weight. If a person is overweight, weight loss can often help them decrease and control insulin levels because excess weight and body fat have been associated with insulin resistance.
Reduce stress. Recent research has shown a link between acute stress and excess insulin production. Getting enough sleep, taking time for yourself to at least 30 minutes daily to enjoy a pleasurable pursuit, journaling and practicing meditation are some suggested ways to reduce stress.
Take supplements. New studies reveal that drinking a supplement that contains green tea, capsaicin and ginger extract twice daily resulted in a decrease of body weight and insulin levels. Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that taking chromium supplements lowered the risk of having Type 2 diabetes by reducing blood glucose and insulin levels.