Preventing diabetes: Six steps to take

Most people who live along the coast are familiar with the hurricane season routine. As soon as the first storm is given a name, we head to the nearest Target or Lowe's to stock up on gallon jugs of water, flashlights, and canned goods. It's a part of human nature to look to the past in order to prepare for the future. The same can be said for our health.

It's estimated that 80 million adults, aged 20 and older, have pre-diabetes. Defined as "blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes," without prevention, pre-diabetes can lead to a type 2 diagnosis. The good news is that studies have shown small lifestyle changes can prevent or delay diabetes.

Six expert tips for preventing diabetes

People diagnosed with pre-diabetes and/or those at high risk of developing diabetes must protect themselves against the hurricane of a diabetes diagnosis. Instead of canned goods and flashlights, arm yourselves with a good pair of walking shoes and a daily dose of broccoli to prevent diabetes.

Amy Campbell, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, and a contributing author to Diabetes Self-Management magazine has shared her top 6 steps to preventing diabetes:

1. Aim to lose 5-10% of body weight (usually, about 10-20 pounds). Start with decreasing the amount of processed, high carb foods you put in your grocery cart and increasing seasonal fruits and vegetables.

2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes pretty much every day. Go for a walk first thing in the morning, or think about riding your bike instead of sitting in your car for your morning commute.

3. Eat more whole grain foods and fewer processed foods. Visit your local farmer's market and search out the flavors of the month. Replace white rice with brown.

4. Drink coffee. Studies show that people who drink caffeinated coffee have lowered risk of getting diabetes. Some have shown that coffee may improve the body's tolerance to glucose by increasing metabolism or lowering insulin resistance.

5. Limit red meat and processed meats, like hot dogs and cold cuts. Eating processed meats can lead to a higher risk of developing diabetes. Make healthier choices such as lean, unprocessed meat, fish, or poultry. Don't forget about tofu, cooked dried beans, lentils, and peas as alternatives to animal protein sources.

6. Get 6-8 hours of sleep every night. Studies have shown that people who have less than five and a half hours sleep a night, or those with imbalanced sleep patterns, are at higher risk of developing diabetes. So make every effort to get a good night's sleep, doctor's orders!

In the end preventing diabetes is a lot like preparing for a hurricane. The goal is the same in both situations: figuring out how to strengthen your body and home from the dangers lurking outside.

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About Amy Stockwell Mercer

Amy Stockwell Mercer is a freelance writer living in Charleston, SC with her husband and three young sons. Her book, The Smart Woman's Guide to Diabetes, Authentic Advice on Everything from Eating to Dating and Motherhood, was published by Demos Health in 2010 and the follow up, The Smart Woman's Guide to Eating Right with Diabetes, What Will Work, will be published in the fall of 2012.

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