Diabetes is a metabolic disease where you see high levels of blood sugar or glucose. Around 422 million people across the world have diabetes, and each year around 1.6 million deaths can be attributed to this condition. Over time, diabetes can seriously damage your blood vessels, heart, kidneys, nerves, and eyes.
The most common kind of diabetes is type-2 diabetes, which develops when your body doesn’t make sufficient insulin (the hormone responsible for moving glucose from your blood to your cells where it’s used for energy) or becomes resistant to insulin.
In people with type-1 diabetes (also called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes) the pancreas produces too little to no insulin.
Some women experience high levels of blood sugar during pregnancy. This is known as gestational diabetes.[Diabetes].World Health Organization.
In ayurveda, diabetes is known as “madhumeha”. It is classified as one of 20 urinary disorders (prameha). The main factors that contribute to this condition are:
- Sahaja (hereditary) or caused by genetic factors.
- Apathyanimittaja (acquired) or caused by improper dietary and lifestyle habits: Excessive consumption of snigdha (unctuous), guru (heavy to digest), lavana(salt), amla(sour) rasa foods as well as foods prepared from newly harvested grains are thought to contribute to diabetes. A sedentary lifestyle (asya sukha), lack of exercise (avyayama), excessive sleep (atinidra), lack of mental exercise (achinta) etc. are also contributory factors.Purkait, Pulakes, and Moumita Bhattacharya. “Prameha and its Ancient Ayurvedic Medicine in India.” GUIDELINES FOR THE CONTRIBUTORS (2012): 638. Madhumeha (Diabetes mellitus)_mtl “Madhumeha (Diabetes mellitus)). National Health Portal.
What Are The Risk Factors For Type-2 Diabetes?
Some diabetes risk factors can be controlled by the lifestyle choices you make. These are called modifiable risk factors. Those that you can’t change are non-modifiable risk factors.
1. Non-Modifiable Risk Factors
The following risk factors for diabetes and prediabetes can’t be changed:
- Age: Your risk for diabetes increases with age – type 2 diabetes develops most frequently after the age of 40.
- Family history: Genetics plays a part in raising your risk for diabetes. It is estimated that you have a 2 to 6 times greater chance of getting type 2 diabetes if your parent, sibling, or child has diabetes.[diabetes risk factors].The British Diabetic Association.
- Ethnicity or race: People of South Asian, Black African, and African-Caribbean descent are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.[diabetes risk factors].The British Diabetic Association.
- Gestational diabetes: If you had gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, you have an increased risk for developing diabetes later in life.[Diabetes Risk Factors].American Heart Association.
2. Modifiable Risk Factors
You can change certain factors that increase your risk for diabetes. By targeting these factors, you can reduce your risk for diabetes or delay its development:
- Being overweight: Being overweight or obese leads to an increased risk for diabetes, particularly if you carry extra weight around your middle.[diabetes risk factors](.The British Diabetic Association.
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle: Being sedentary means spending long periods of time sitting or lying down (excluding the time spent sleeping). So, a lifestyle where you spend long periods of time sitting at a desk or behind a wheel or lounging on a couch playing video games or watching TV can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Having high blood pressure: You have a higher risk of diabetes if you’ve ever suffered from high blood pressure.
- Unhealthy cholesterol (lipid) levels: Low levels of HDL or “good cholesterol” and high levels of triglycerides (which are waxy fats or lipids) can increase your risk for type-2 diabetes.
- Smoking: In addition to increasing your risk for conditions such as heart disease and cancer, smoking also increases your risk for type-2 diabetes.
- Maintaining an unhealthy diet: An unhealthy diet that’s high in refined carbs, added sugars, unhealthy fats, and processed meats can increase your risk.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: Too much alcohol can lead to inflammation in your pancreas which in turn can hamper its ability to produce sufficient insulin. Excessive alcohol consumption can therefore increase your risk for diabetes.
- Stress: According to experts, there is some evidence that stress could be associated with an increased risk of diabetes. It is thought that high levels of stress hormones can tamp down the production of insulin.[stress and diabetes].The British Diabetic Association.
- Irregular sleeping habits: Not getting sufficient sleep, sleeping too long, and disturbed sleep are linked to an increased risk for diabetes.[Diabetes Risk Factors].American Heart Association.[diabetes risk factors].The British Diabetic Association.
7 Lifestyle Tips To Prevent Diabetes
Now that we’ve looked at the modifiable risk factors for diabetes let’s take a look at the steps you can take to prevent diabetes:
1. Maintain A Healthy Weight
Excess weight is one of the most important factors that contributes to the development of type-2 diabetes. According to experts, being overweight can increase your risk of diabetes by 7 times while those who are obese are 20 to 40 times greater risk of developing diabetes than those who maintain a healthy weight. Losing 7 to 10% of your body weight is thought to reduce your chances of getting type-2 diabetes by half if you are overweight.
Adopting a healthy balanced calorie reduced diet and engaging in physical activity can help you shed those extra pounds. Aim to lose 0.5 to 1 kilogram (1 to 2 pounds) a week rather than shedding a lot of weight very quickly.[Weight loss: 6 strategies for success].Mayo Clinic.
2. Stick To A Healthy Diet
Having a healthy diet can have a significant impact on whether you develop type-2 diabetes. The American Heart Association suggests a diet that included vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, legumes unsalted seeds and nuts, skinless poultry, and unsaturated fats is healthy.[Diabetes Risk Factors]. American Heart Association. According to ayurveda, including foods such as bitter gourd (karela), green leafy vegetables, garlic (rasona), turmeric (haridra), Indian blackberry (jammbu phala) etc. in your diet can be beneficial.Sharma, Ramavtar, Vinod Kumar Shahi, Shruti Khanduri, Arun Goyal, Suhas Chaudhary, Rakesh Kumar Rana, Richa Singhal, Narayanam Srikanth, and Kartar Singh Dhiman. “Effect of Ayurveda … Continue reading Four simple dietary changes can make your diet healthier.
- Opt for whole grains: Diets rich in whole grains have a protective effect against diabetes while diets high in refined carbs increase your risk of this condition. Fiber and bran present in whole grains makes it harder for digestive enzymes to break down whole grains. This means that they release sugar slower and have a lower glycemic index (a measure of how quickly foods cause blood sugar to rise). Whole grains are also rich in minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals which may help lower diabetes risk. Meanwhile, foods rich in refined carbs such as white bread, bagels, and donuts have a high glycemic index.
- Limit sugary drinks: Like refined carbs, sugary drinks too have a high glycemic index. So what should you drink instead? Water is a good option. You can also have tea or coffee. But make sure you don’t load them up with cream and sugar, or have too much caffeine.
- Opt for healthy fats: Healthy fats, that is the polyunsaturated fats present in seeds, nuts, and liquid vegetable oils can help stave off diabetes. Meanwhile, trans fats can increase your risk of this condition. And while polyunsaturated fats present in fish do not help prevent diabetes, they are good for your heart. So they may help protect against heart attacks if you do have diabetes.
- Limit red meat: Both red meat (lamp, pork, beef) and processed meats can increase your risk of diabetes. Go for healthier sources of protein such as low-fat dairy, nuts, fish or poultry instead.[Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes].Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
3. Be Physically Active
Working your muscles harder and more frequently makes them better at using insulin and absorbing glucose. And you don’t need long sessions in the gym to achieve this. A brisk walk of half an hour every day can cut your risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 30%.[Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes].Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. And if your workday consists of long periods sitting at a desk, take mini activity breaks in between – walk up to a colleague instead of sending an email, hold walking meetings, take the stairs in your office building.[Diabetes Risk Factors].American Heart Association.
4. Turn Off The TV
Many of us spend our evenings flopped down on the couch with the television on. But this might be more harmful than we thought. Every couple of hours spent watching TV rather than doing something more active can increase your chance of getting diabetes by 20%. Why is this so? It could be because the amount of time you spend watching television is linked to your chances of being overweight. The fact that we often snack on unhealthy food while we watch TV might also have something to do with it.[Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes].Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
5. Get Sufficient Sleep
Experts suggest that adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep in a day. If you have trouble sleeping the following tips might help:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule: Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. This consistency reinforces the sleep-wake cycle of your body.
- Wind down before bedtime: Doing calming things like reading a book, listening to soothing music, or taking a bath before bedtime may help you sleep.
- Avoid large meals before bedtime: It’s a good idea to not have heavy meals a couple of hours before bedtime. You should also not have caffeine or tea for a few hours before bedtime as they can have a stimulating effect.
- Limit naps during the day: They can interfere with your sleep. If you do choose to nap, limit yourself to 30 minutes and make sure you don’t nap late in the day.
- Engage in physical activity: Regular physical activity can help you sleep better. But don’t engage in vigorous physical activity too close to bedtime as this can have a stimulating effect.[Sleep tips: 6 steps to better sleep]. Mayo Clinic.
Both ayurveda and modern science suggest that excessive sleep can also raise your risk for diabetes. If you find that you regularly need long hours of sleep (say more than 8 to 9 hours) to feel rested check if your sleep is disturbed due to an underlying problem such as sleep apnea (a breathing disorder where you have brief pauses in your breathing while you sleep), bruxism (where you grind your teeth during sleep) etc.[Oversleeping: Bad for Your Health?]. John Hopkins Medicine.
6. Stop Smoking
Smoking can impact your health adversely in a lot of ways, in addition to increasing your risk for diabetes. If you are trying to quit smoking here are a few tips that can help:
- Some people smoke to deal with stress. Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing exercises, or having a massage can help ease stress.
- Physical activity can be helpful in distracting you when you crave tobacco, it can also reduce the intensity of your craving. So going for a walk or jog might help you resist temptation when you feel like smoking.
- Chewing on something such as sugarless gum, nuts, or raw carrots can help you resist the urge to smoke.
- Some situations can trigger your urge to smoke. Identify your trigger – this could be something as simple as drinking coffee or dealing with a stressful situation. Have a plan to avoid your triggers or get through them without smoking.[Quitting smoking: 10 ways to resist tobacco cravings]. Mayo Clinic.
7. Manage Stress
As our days become busier and more stressful it can take a toll on our health. Here are a few tips to help you manage stress better:
- Plan ahead: When a stressful day or event comes up, plan ahead. Make a ‘to do’ list so that you don’t forget things that need to be handled. Planning ahead can also help you manage your time better.
- Try relaxation techniques: These can help trigger a physiological change which can lower your heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones, and breathing rate. Meditation, and deep breathing exercises are popular relaxation techniques.
- Talk about your feelings: Connecting with other people – family, friends, or even a professional- and talking about your feelings can help with stress. [Stress].NHS,UK.[Best ways to manage stress]. Harvard Health Publishing.
|↑1||[Diabetes].World Health Organization.|
|↑2||Purkait, Pulakes, and Moumita Bhattacharya. “Prameha and its Ancient Ayurvedic Medicine in India.” GUIDELINES FOR THE CONTRIBUTORS (2012): 638.|
|↑3||Madhumeha (Diabetes mellitus)_mtl “Madhumeha (Diabetes mellitus)). National Health Portal.|
|↑4, ↑5, ↑10||[diabetes risk factors].The British Diabetic Association.|
|↑6, ↑9, ↑16||[Diabetes Risk Factors].American Heart Association.|
|↑7||[diabetes risk factors](.The British Diabetic Association.|
|↑8||[stress and diabetes].The British Diabetic Association.|
|↑11||[Weight loss: 6 strategies for success].Mayo Clinic.|
|↑12||[Diabetes Risk Factors]. American Heart Association.|
|↑13||Sharma, Ramavtar, Vinod Kumar Shahi, Shruti Khanduri, Arun Goyal, Suhas Chaudhary, Rakesh Kumar Rana, Richa Singhal, Narayanam Srikanth, and Kartar Singh Dhiman. “Effect of Ayurveda intervention, lifestyle modification and Yoga in prediabetic and type 2 diabetes under the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS)–AYUSH integration project.” Ayu 40, no. 1 (2019): 8.|
|↑14, ↑15, ↑17||[Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes].Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.|
|↑18||[Sleep tips: 6 steps to better sleep]. Mayo Clinic.|
|↑19||[Oversleeping: Bad for Your Health?]. John Hopkins Medicine.|
|↑20||[Quitting smoking: 10 ways to resist tobacco cravings]. Mayo Clinic.|
|↑22||[Best ways to manage stress]. Harvard Health Publishing.|