Type 2 diabetes (previously known as non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes) is a disorder that affects over 20 million people in the US. It is a chronic condition in which your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to metabolize sugar (glucose), and thus maintain normal glucose levels in the blood. It can be a precursor to Type 1 diabetes, and left untreated can be life threatening. Possibly the most dangerous aspect of the disease is that many people don’t know that they have it, and remain undiagnosed.
The exact causes of Type 2 diabetes are unknown, but many of the factors that place you at a higher risk for contracting it are known. The first you can’t do anything about – heredity. You are at a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes if you have a parent or sibling who has had it, and if you are of African-American, Asian-American, Latino, Pacific Islander, or American Indian descent.
Other known risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include being overweight or obese (having a body mass index or BMI of over 25), being hypertensive (having a blood pressure of 140/90 mm or higher), having high blood cholesterol levels, and leading a sedentary life.
What can I do to assess my risk of contracting this disease?
The quickest method of determining whether you are at risk for Type 2 diabetes is to check your waist size. Fat accumulated around the waist puts you at much greater risk than fat elsewhere in the body. Women are at risk if their waist size exceeds 31.5 inches (90 cm); men are at risk if their waist size exceeds 37 inches (94 cm).
If you are concerned, you can also take the self-test provided by the American Diabetes Association to determine your own level of risk for the disease: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/prevention/diabetes-risk-test/
How can I lower my risk of Type 2 diabetes?
• Lose weight and exercise more. Studies have shown that if you lose 5% of your current body weight and exercise regularly, you can reduce your risk by over 50%.
• Eat cheese. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that people who regularly eat cheese, fermented milk, and yogurt have a 12% lower risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes.
• Eat more Indian food. Although eating more Indian food might not really reduce your risk, results of a study published in Diabetes Care indicates that taking capsules of one of its primary ingredients – turmeric (curcumin) – just might. People diagnosed with prediabetes who took curcumin capsules were found to be much less likely to go on to develop Type 2 diabetes.
• Pump iron. A study recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that strength training (in the form of regularly lifting weights) significantly reduced the risk of Type 2 diabetes in men.
• Enjoy your morning cup of coffee. WebMD reports a study that shows that three compounds in coffee (caffeine, chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid) may prevent the buildup of a protein that has been linked to Type 2 diabetes.
• Walk daily. The journal Diabetes Care found that in people with a high risk for Type 2 diabetes, taking a short walk (2000 steps a day, less than a mile) every day reduced their risk by 29%.
• Get enough sleep. Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who studied obese teens found that sleeping at least 7 to 8 hours a night reduced their glucose levels, and thus their Type 2 diabetes risk.
• Eat tree nuts. Louisiana State University researchers found that people who regularly eat almonds, pistachios, cashews, and walnuts had lower risks of Type 2 diabetes, as well as lower rates of heart disease and metabolic syndrome. They also had a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who didn’t eat nuts.
• Snack on apples, pears, and blueberries. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the diets of 200,000 people, and found that those who ate these fruits (which are high in antioxidants and anthocyanins) had a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.
• Eat your greens, and a variety of them. In another Diabetes Care study, researchers found that people who included the most different kinds of vegetables in their diets had the lowest Type 2 diabetes risk.
• Occasionally celebrate by having a drink. Drinking alcohol moderately can reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes, especially if you eat a high-carbohydrate diet.