It is believed that around 4.5 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes and an additional 1.1 million are unknowingly living with undiagnosed cases of diabetes. Out of this number of cases, an estimated 9 out of 10 people have type 2 diabetes- the preventable form of the disease. Although some of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes are unavoidable and cannot be changed (such as age, ethnicity and family history) there are plenty of small, simple steps that all of us can take to help protect against diabetes.
Although the exact cause of diabetes is still unknown, the contributing factors to the condition are understood which means that you can take significant steps towards protecting yourself.
All it takes is to make some simple changes to your lifestyle to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Of course we all know that increasing physical activity levels can lead to weight loss, improved mood and overall fitness. But did you know exercise can protect against diabetes too?
Research shows that taking regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by up to 64%. It is suggested that all adults do two forms of physical exercise each week – strength and aerobic. The amount you do will be personal to you and you must take into consideration your age, exercise experience, weight and any existing health conditions. The NHS LiveWell Guide can help you to get an idea of what level of exercise suits you and you can also speak to your GP for further advice.
Cut Down on Calories
It goes without saying that shedding excess weight can greatly protect against diabetes. 80% of people who have the condition are overweight, so if you are in this category and are concerned about getting diabetes, you should work towards losing weight. The NHS has a handy 12 week weight loss pack which can help you on your journey to lowering your diabetes risk by guiding you towards healthy eating and exercise. This guide comes complete with a printable plan to stick on your fridge and a journal to help you track your progress.
Speaking of healthy eating, one of the most important changes you can make to your diet to protect against diabetes is to up your intake of whole grains. Whole grains are the seeds of cereal plants, such as wheat, rye, oats, rice and quinoa. Everyone is encouraged to eat more whole grains for many reasons, but this food type is especially important for those at risk of type 2 diabetes.
This is because whole grain foods have higher glycemic indexes (GI) which means they do not increase blood glucose levels as rapidly as other carbohydrate foods. Swapping white bread, pasta and rice dishes for whole grain alternatives is a highly effective way to manage your blood glucose levels and protect against diabetes.
Reduce Your Salt Intake
Both those living with diabetes and those making the necessary steps to reduce their risk of the disease are encouraged to cut down on salt. Eating a diet that is too high in salt can lead to high blood pressure which, in turn, increases your chances of contracting type 2 diabetes as well as other illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. For anyone in the ‘at risk’ category for type 2 diabetes, lowering salt intake is a very important step to take. For helpful advice on how you can enjoy a varied, nutritionally balanced diet while cutting down on salt, take a look at this in-depth information on the NHS LiveWell website.
Protect Against Diabetes – What You Need To Know
These are just a few very simple steps to help you protect against diabetes. For any concerns or questions you may have or if you require more thorough guidance on what steps you need to take, it is essential that you speak to your GP and find out what you need to do. If you’re not sure what your risk of developing type 2 diabetes currently is, take a few minutes to complete this self assessment and find out.