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5 Ways to Lower Your Risk for Diabetes

Making simple lifestyle changes significantly lowers your risk for diabetes.

Diabetes rates in the U.S. have been on the rise, and diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death, according to the American Diabetes Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that about 10 percent of Americans have diabetes, and more than 1 in 3 U.S. adults have pre-diabetes. Fortunately, there are ways you can lower your risk for developing this disease.

1. Lose Weight if You're Overweight

One of the most important things you can do to prevent diabetes is maintaining a healthy weight. The CDC notes that losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight, which is just 10 to 14 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds, can delay or prevent diabetes. Aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds weekly if you’re overweight by lowering your food intake by at least 500 calories daily, or burn more calories by boosting physical activity.

2. Eat — and Avoid — Certain Foods

In addition to maintaining a healthy weight, choosing the right foods — and avoiding others — also lowers your risk for developing diabetes. According to Harvard School of Public Health, making the following food selections is a must for diabetes prevention:

  • Choose whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, etc.) instead of refined grains (white rice, white, bread, etc.).
  • Pick coffee, tea, or water instead of sugary drinks.
  • Select heart-healthy fats — like vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds — over trans and animal fats.
  • Limit or avoid red meat, and steer clear of processed meats — instead, choose healthier protein sources like fish, poultry, soy, nuts, seeds, legumes, and low-fat dairy foods.

3. Set Fiber Goals

A high fiber intake helps you ward off diabetes, and setting fiber goals can keep you on track. A review published in Hormone and Metabolic Research reports that getting more than 30 grams of fiber daily in conjunction with low-fat dieting is an effective strategy for type 2 diabetes prevention. Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains — and ask your doctor about taking a fiber supplement.

4. Work Out Daily

Regular exercise not only aids in weight control, it plays a significant role in diabetes prevention. You may wonder how much exercise is really needed to lower your diabetes risk. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend hours at the gym. According to a 2010 review published in Diabetes Care, getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises such as brisk walking, five days weekly is an effective diabetes prevention strategy. Harvard School of Public Health notes that brisk walking for 30 minutes every day reduces your type 2 diabetes risk by 30 percent.

5. Avoid Smoking

If you’re a smoker, quitting is one of the most important things you can do help prevent diabetes. The CDC states that smoking increases your diabetes risk by 30 to 40 percent, so quitting significantly lowers your odds of getting it. If you’re having trouble quitting, a variety of online resources and apps are available to help you get started.

Bottom Line

While there’s no way to guarantee you’ll avoid diabetes, making lifestyle and dietary changes can significantly lower your risk for developing the disease.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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