Type 2 diabetes has become all too common in the United States, with over 29 million people affected now and some estimates showing that as many as one in three Americans may have diabetes by the year 2050. Prediabetes, the precursor to the disease, is even more prevalent, affecting 86 million Americans! Given that type 2 diabetes is largely preventable, and prediabetes reversible, there are several things you can do to rev up your metabolism and keep your sugar levels in check.
1) Drop those Extra Pounds
Obesity increases your chances of developing diabetes to one in four, not to mention increased risks for other health problems including heart attacks and stroke. But you do not need to be obese to be at increased risk for diabetes; even being somewhat overweight can affect your body’s control of sugar.
Thankfully, a large-scale study showed that every little bit helps when it comes to weight loss. People who lost 5-7% of their body weight decreased their risk of diabetes by more than half. This means a 150 lb. woman only needs to lose 8 lbs. to have a meaningful impact on her health!
2) Get—and Stay—Moving
Studies show that people who walk briskly for 30 minutes every day can decrease their risk of developing diabetes by 30 percent. Even if you do not lose weight doing it, walking more helps keep your organs and muscles sensitive to your own insulin so you can keep your blood sugar level in the normal range.
Ramping up your activity level even more than this helps further control your body’s sugar and insulin levels, especially when aerobic exercise (“cardio”) is combined with resistance training.
Don’t know where to start? I often recommend to patients to try a fitness band (like the FitBit or Jawbone Up) to measure your daily steps, set goals, and monitor your progress.
3) Ignore the Bread Basket
Better yet, ask the server not to leave one at your table so you are not tempted to indulge.
White bread and other processed carbohydrates such as potatoes, crackers, white rice, cookies, pastries, and most breakfast cereals have a high glycemic index and glycemic load. That means these foods cause sugar and insulin level spikes in your bloodstream, which over time make it harder for the body to respond to your own insulin and adequately regulate your blood sugar. Studies looking at women’s diets show that swapping these carbs out for low glycemic options, such as non-starchy vegetables and whole grains, helps to keep one’s metabolism running faster and one’s risk of diabetes lower.
Skip on sugary drinks whenever possible, too, as these also have a high glycemic index. Unsweetened tea or coffee and the occasional single glass of red wine or liquor are better choices, but when in doubt, choose water.
Stress is not only unhealthy for the mind, but research at Duke University showed that chronic stress contributed to the development of diabetes in people who were genetically predisposed. Stress causes the release of adrenaline and cortisol in the body, which increases your blood sugar levels, and doing so chronically can affect the way your metabolism handles sugar. Conversely, stress management techniques have been shown to improve blood sugar control in diabetics, sometimes as much as a low dose medication. Try yoga, meditation, deep breathing, massage therapy, or biofeedback—it’ll help clear your mind and rejuvenate your metabolism.
5) Be Proactive
Visit your primary care doctor to determine if you have prediabetes or are at risk for diabetes. A simple blood test can measure your fasting glucose level and your body’s control of blood sugar levels over the past few months.
We also have the ability to check more advanced markers of insulin resistance that can highlight potential problems before they show up on traditional testing. These labs include fasting insulin, apolipoprotein levels, and a breakdown of your bad cholesterol particles to see their size and propensity to clog arteries.
While at your physician’s office, you could also be evaluated for other health problems that often go hand in hand with poor metabolism and an increased risk of diabetes, such as high blood pressure, belly fat surrounding your organs, sleep apnea, and thyroid disorders.
Stay healthy my friends.
Dr. Jennifer Miranda
PURE executive health & wellness
The exceptional medicine and experience you deserve