The global epidemic of diabetes has now reached 350 million people or about 5 percent of the world’s population. The two factors that contribute to the rapid rise in diabetes are longer life spans — diabetes risk rises with age — and modern, sedentary lifestyles. The following are some ideas to help you reduce your risk of getting diabetes.
Fundamentally, there are two things you can do to reduce your risk of diabetes. The first is to eat right and the second is to exercise.
Generally, the carbohydrates you eat are converted into sugar to provide energy for your body. The exception to the rule is fiber. For this reason, a whole grain, high fiber carbohydrate will be healthier for you than one with refined flour, sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Keep in mind that even whole grain sources of carbohydrates will largely be converted to sugar in your blood stream. To reduce your chances of developing diabetes reduce your consumption of carbohydrates.
One good rule of thumb is to eat one gram of protein for every gram of carbohydrates you eat. The trick here is to avoid the fat we see in most protein sources. Bacon, sausage, hot dogs, pepperoni and other aged meats all have more calories from fat than from protein. Lean cuts of ham, chicken and fish provide great sources of low fat protein. Vegetarians and vegans may wish to supplement their diets with protein powders that can be used in smoothies and cooking.
Fat is necessary for our bodies to function properly, but in the developed world there is little problem getting enough fat. To the contrary, we need to avoid fats conscientiously or risk gaining unhealthy pounds. Fish oils naturally occurring in most fish are especially good for you, providing key nutrients to support your heart and brain.
Until just a few generations ago our ancestors generally earned their keep by working at some form of manual labor. Women had it no easier than men. Those few who didn’t work at manual labor often had to walk long distances to and from their employment each day. On the other hand, we drive to work where we sit at desks and do little else. We inherited our ancestor’s appetites for 4,000 calories per day, but our sedentary lifestyles require only 2,000 calories per day. For most people this requires a deliberate effort to eat only the amount of food required.
To achieve a minimum level of fitness you need to get at least twenty minutes of aerobic exercise at least three times per week. To begin, you can get your heart rate up simply by going for a vigorous walk. After a time, as your weight drops and your fitness improves, you may need to take up something even more vigorous like running or biking in order to really get your heart rate where it needs to be.
In addition to your aerobic exercise, look for opportunities to have fun that require you to move. From bowling to golfing and from hang gliding to mountain climbing there are all kinds of opportunities to find something that you enjoy doing that will get you off the couch.
Be sure to walk whenever you can to do your errands. Getting the car out to make a trip of just a few blocks — and we’ve all done it — is not only bad for our health, it is bad for the environment, too.
By focusing on both your diet and your fitness level, you can get your weight in the healthy zone and reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
If you are at risk for developing diabetes because of family history or lifestyle, be sure to get your blood sugar checked by your doctor.
Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.