diabetes mellitus is at record levels in the US – nearly 34 million Americans, or 10.5% of the population, are affected. The condition occurs when the body cannot adequately process blood sugar. That can damage blood vessels throughout the body, potentially leading to heart disease, stroke, blindness and amputation. But diabetes generally doesn’t develop overnight. Little things you do regularly, without thinking about it, can seriously increase your risk. This is what doctors who treat diabetes say it is the daily habits that lead to diabetes. Read on – and to ensure your health and that of others, don’t miss this one Certain Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.
“One of the most common unhealthy habits is drinking soda to quench your thirst when you need water,” says Thomas Horowitz, DO, a family medicine specialist at CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. “The sugar content of commonly consumed products can be very high — a Super Gulp soft drink made up of a handful of sugar, a can of soda, or a sugary cereal is way more than your body can handle.” Kathleen Wyne, MD, Ph.D., an endocrinologist who treats patients with diabetes at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, agrees: “For many people, quitting sugary sodas leads to a rapid 20-pound weight loss.”
“Diabetes is when your body can’t supply enough insulin to get glucose (sugar) into your body’s hungry cells,” Horowitz says. “The best way to avoid it is to follow a diet that won’t tax your insulin supply.” He recommends choosing foods that break down slowly or are low in sugar, such as protein, whole grains, and vegetables, rather than refined grains or sweets.”
A sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for diabetes. The good news: “Any activity can improve insulin sensitivity and slow progression to diabetes,” Wyne says. Her suggestions for sneaking some extra walking into your day: Park in the back of parking lots instead of the front; getting up early to go for a walk instead of sleeping in; take a walk instead of eating dessert; or get a dog that needs to be walked a few times a day.
Wyne offers these tips for avoiding overeating that can lead to diabetes and other health problems:
Don’t buy snacks. “If it’s not in your house, you’re not eating it,” she says.
Practice portion control by buying smaller plates to use at home.
During the meal, eat vegetables and salad first.
Think of meat as a side dish and divide it the same way as vegetables.
Use spices to enhance the taste of food, rather than rich or sweet sauces.
Even if you exercise regularly, long periods of sitting can cause metabolic changes that raise blood sugar, weaken muscles and compromise your heart health, says Sarah Rettinger, MD, an endocrinologist at the Providence Saint John Health Center in Santa Monica, California. She recommends setting a timer that reminds you to get up and move for at least five to 10 minutes every hour. “If you can’t take a short walk outside, walk up and down stairs, do a few laps around the house or apartment, do a few jumps—anything to get your heart rate up a little, or to give you a a little out of breath,” Rettinger says. “Over the course of a day, these mini breaks really add up.”
“Everyone knows that he or she should eat healthy, I would add that mindful eating can be beneficial,” Rettinger says. “If you find yourself overeating near the fridge, take a break and ask, ‘Why am I eating? Am I hungry? Or am I bored, stressed, or need rest?’ Some patients find it helpful to limit themselves to eating only at mealtimes or for a specific time of night.” In Rettinger’s house, the kitchen is closed after 8 p.m.
“Have ‘scaffolding’ — make sure everyone in your household is on the same page about your health,” Rettinger says. “It’s hard enough to eat healthy sometimes. You don’t want a family member bringing donuts or making ice cream late at night. It’s easier to maintain healthy habits when others around you are too.” Likewise, if you’re confused, struggling, or frustrated with how to stick to a healthy lifestyle, ask your healthcare provider for help. And to go through life as healthy as possible, you can’t miss this one 13 Everyday Habits That Are Secretly Killing You.