Diabetes is a disease that plagues millions of people all over the world, and the rate at which people are contracting it is very alarming. In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) released some shocking findings over the years.
In 1980, there were about 108 million people suffering from diabetes, and in 2014, that number had skyrocketed to 422 million — that’s an increase of 314 million in only 34 years. The bad news doesn’t stop there. In 2016, it is estimated that 1.6 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes, and the WHO believes it was the seventh-highest cause of human death that year.
But there is some good news — diabetes is able to be treated, and with the proper preventive measures in place, it can be delayed or avoided altogether. Here are some ways you can help yourself to lower your risk of developing diabetes.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas in our bodies is unable to produce enough insulin — a hormone that regulates the sugar levels in our blood — or when our bodies are unable to react with the produced insulin, which can cause hyperglycaemia, or dangerously high blood sugar levels. Hyperglycaemia can cause severe long-term damage to us, such as loss of vision and blindness, kidney failure, amputation of limbs, and as much as a five-times increase in the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
There are two types of diabetes — type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is a hereditary condition and cannot be cured, but it is less prevalent. On the other hand, type 2 diabetes is the one that most people contract due to unhealthy habits and lifestyles, so it is preventable. So how, then, do you prevent diabetes?
Working up a sweat can reduce the risk of diabetes by a solid amount. Exercising can increase the insulin sensitivity of your cells, and when you work out regularly, your body requires less insulin to maintain your blood sugar levels. It’s not just diabetes that is kept at bay when you exercise — your risk of stroke goes down, as does your risk of heart disease. Make some time after work to go for a jog, or hit the gym and burn some calories. If that’s too much, you can change small habits to get more physical activity done — for example, when you’re commuting to work via bus or train, get off one station before your usual stop and walk the rest of the way.
Learn To Eat Right
Your diet is probably the biggest factor in your fight against diabetes — if done right, it can help fight off diabetes, but if you insist on eating unhealthy foods, you’d best be prepared to face the consequences. Some foods that need to be cut from your diet are sugar and refined carbohydrates, as your body breaks these foods down fast and they get absorbed very quickly into your bloodstream and cause your blood sugar levels to spike. Stop yourself from eating sugary and high-fat snacks, and especially overly-sweet soda and carbonated beverages. Instead, strive to eat a high-fibre, low-carb diet — fibre helps to slow down the rate at which sugar is absorbed into your blood.
Lose Some Weight
Not everyone who develops type 2 diabetes is overweight, but the majority of obese people do in fact end up developing it. Obese people tend to have more body fat in the abdominal area, and this is called visceral fat. Too much visceral fat can prevent your body from making full use of insulin, and that can sharply raise the risk of diabetes. The risk may be higher for obese and overweight people, but if you aren’t, you still shouldn’t be celebrating too early. The more weight you lose, the lower your risk of diabetes — studies have shown that for every kilogram lost, your rate of developing diabetes decreases by 16 per cent. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should starve yourself or exercise till you’re underweight — you should still be eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
Get More Sleep
There is increasing evidence that suggests a lack of good sleep can lead to higher chances of contracting diabetes. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body copes with your sleepiness by producing more cortisol, a stress-related hormone that keeps you awake. The problem with this is that with more cortisol in your system, it makes it harder for insulin to regulate your blood sugar levels, and this can lead to an increase in your risk of developing diabetes. Furthermore, a lack of sleep not only gives you unattractive dark eye circles, but it also causes you to gain weight, which again only increases your risk of diabetes.
There’s a reason why we’re told from a young age that smoking cigarettes are bad for our health. In addition to lung cancer, brain damage, and all the other negative effects of smoking, diabetes risk is also a possibility. Several research studies have shown that average smokers had increased diabetes risk of 44 per cent, and heavy smokers by as much as 61 per cent. It’s not just smokers — if you are constantly exposed to second-hand smoke, your risk of diabetes can go up too. Fortunately, if you do decide to quit smoking, you can lower your risk of developing diabetes, though it will take a long while — one study showed that middle-aged smokers who stopped smoking has a 13 per cent reduction in their diabetes risk after five years, and after 20 years, they were able to be on the same level as non-smokers.