Preventing diabetes can be as easy as one, two, three.
Well, it should be. But is it?
Preventing diabetes really does come down to three things -- diet, diet, and diet.
Followed closely by exercise and weight control. Make that exercise… because weight management takes care of itself through combining a healthful diet - truly health-promoting nutrition - and exercise.
While smoking and alcohol abuse are connected with diabetes, they are beyond the scope of this article.
SeniorHealthSuccess.com exists for the benefit of you, the older adult, the senior, the baby boomer.
This topic of “preventing diabetes” is of particular concern to you and me. Why?
We’re members of the age group with the highest prevalence of diabetes.
About 25 percent of Americans over the age of 60 have this dreaded condition - and it’s getting worse with the overall aging of the U.S. population.
And… This epidemic of horrendous proportions has now reached all age groups -- including young children.
Never mind the term “adult-onset diabetes” - it has died a premature death. So to speak…
Today, preventing diabetes is essential for every age group.
You and I, the seniors, are specifically concerned with how diabetes would affect our lifestyle, functional status, the looming risk of institutionalization, and of course longevity.
And it’s not like diabetes comes on suddenly. There are warning signs, chronic conditions such as hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypertension (high blood pressure).
These, along with other factors including central obesity, can lead to metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, and eventually diabetes.
Diabetes affects your entire body.
It can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, total loss of vision, irreversible nerve damage, and circulatory problems with resultant amputation.
The risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increases with diabetes.
Genetics as a risk factor takes a back seat to dietary, behavioral and lifestyle factors. Way back.
Now some good news…
Why is diet so very important in avoiding this disease?
Every time you eat, your body converts food into glucose which is absorbed into your bloodstream. Your pancreas is called into action and sends a hormone called insulin to instruct the trillions of cells in your body to “sponge” up that glucose.
Remember, your cells depend on glucose for most of their energy needs. But…
If there is too much glucose in your bloodstream due to an onslaught of rich, highly processed and meat-centered food, aka the Standard American Diet, your pancreas produces more and more insulin, until its cells tire and fail.
Or, your body’s cells can’t properly respond to constant overload of glucose anymore. This is known as insulin resistance.
If this imbalance goes on year after year, diabetes occurs.
What does all this mean? Back to the good news…
There is convincing evidence to show that changes in diet and lifestyle can have a huge impact in preventing diabetes…
A whole foods, plant-based diet has been proven to prevent a host of conditions that can lead to diabetes.
It must include whole grains that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, such as whole wheat, brown rice and rolled or steel-cut oats to protect against diabetes.
There are special phytochemicals in rye that turn off the genes responsible for diabetes.
Why is this so important?
The bran and fiber in whole grains - including those in your pastas and cereals - make it more difficult for digestive enzymes to break down the starches into glucose.
This hinders the rapid build-up in blood sugar and insulin. It also keeps your appetite in check.
Diets rich in refined carbohydrates have the opposite effect. As do all those sugary drinks like sodas and fruit juices.
Not only do these wreak havoc with your glucose levels, they also contribute to chronic inflammation, decreased HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and increased triglycerides - all of which are risk factors for diabetes.
Emphasis should be given to a multitude of fresh vegetables and fruits, as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and dietary fiber.
Fiber improves your blood sugar control - similar to whole grains.
Now, what about protein?
The evidence is growing stronger that eating red meat - any meat for that matter, including chicken and fish - and processed meats increases the risk of diabetes, even among people who consume only small amounts.
The Standard American Diet has way too much animal protein in it.
There are much healthier plant proteins available such as beans and other legumes, nuts, seeds, and mushrooms. Even grains/seeds like quinoa and amaranth provide good protein.
Beside carbohydrates and proteins, a healthy and well-balanced diet includes healthy fat. Not too much.
Avocados, nuts and seeds like walnuts and almonds, flaxseeds and hempseeds are all excellent plant sources of fat. And very little vegetable oils.
Can a plant-based diet, or at least a plant-strong diet, really be conducive to preventing diabetes?
Here are the facts -- Research says that older adults age 50-70 who are vegetarians have 76% less diabetes type 2 than the general population!
How does that move you? Talking about moving…
Exercise, together with a well-balanced diet, can help keep your weight under control - which in turn may be the best thing you can do to prevent diabetes.
Of course, regular exercise itself cuts your risk of ever developing diabetes.
Be sure to make your Exercise for Seniors an enjoyable habit. Just have fun doing it.
Getting enough sleep and managing stress goes a long way toward preventing diabetes.
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