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How to Prevent Diabetes (Part 2)

In Part 2 of this series on diabetes, House Call Doctor discusses the lifestyle changes prediabetics must make in order to reverse the progress of this deadly disease.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,
August 21, 2013
Episode #130

Page 1 of 2

In an earlier episode, we discussed what it really means to be a “diabetic” or “prediabetic,” and how doctors diagnose these medical conditions.  We also discussed why we care about this topic and the complications on our quality and quantity of life.  Diabetes is said to be underestimated in this world, since most patients have no symptoms at all.  Therefore, if you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, consider yourself lucky – because you have a unique opportunity to reverse this downhill process. A diagnosis of diabetes itself is really for life.  Most patients find out too late, when they are already in the irreversible diabetes stage. 

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So if you have a predisposition towards diabetes, or are diagnosed with prediabetes, let’s learn how we can fight this potentially debilitating condition:

How to Prevent Diabetes

There’s no secret to preventing diabetes.  When you break it down, it really comes to proper nutrition, consistent exercise, and weight loss.  There’s really no magic pill.  If you can lose weight and change your lifestyle, you can prevent diabetes. Notice I didn’t say “diet” – people who “diet” tend to regain the weight later; it really takes a lifestyle change that you must maintain your whole life.  But here are some guidelines to help you do that:

Nutrition

Carbs:  Watch your carbohydrate intake – this includes starchy foods such as bread, tortillas, pastas, rice, potatoes, sweets, juice, regular sodas, alcohol, etc.  Learn to read food labels so you can recognize carbohydrates in foods you purchase.  Watch your drinks – this is a high-calorie and source of high carbs you can easily remove from your diet to both lose weight and decrease your carb intake.  You can’t eliminate carbs completely because your cells still need it to function.  But learn to count your carb intake and maintain the same consistent amount at your meals. Choose whole wheat alternatives which are more “complex carbs” that are metabolized more efficiently.  Most people need about 45% - 65% of their total daily calories to come from carbs.

Protein and Fats:  Most protein and fats do not raise glucose levels directly.  However, they do contribute to the amount of calories consumed, and fats also contribute to heart disease (and diabetes is already a risk factor for this).  Therefore, if you are trying to lose weight, you still need to take calories consumed into consideration.  The American Diabetic Association (or ADA) recommends no more than 35% of calories a day to come from fat, and less than 7% from saturated fats.  And 15 to 20% of calories should come from protein for most healthy patients with good kidneys.

Fiber:  A diet higher in fiber can help control blood glucose levels.  Aim for 25 to 30 grams a day.

 

See also: The Benefits of Fiber

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