The numbers are alarming: More than 25 million people in the United States have diabetes-that's about one in 10 Americans. And according to recent government reports, rates are projected to surge over the next 40 years, affecting as many as one in three Americans by 2050. New research reveals three strategies that can help change the course of the disease:
Eat less fat.
It can help reduce your risk of developing diabetes, regardless of whether you lose weight. With Type 2 diabetes, your body either doesn't produce enough insulin, or your cells ignore it; insulin is needed to use glucose for energy. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham put 69 overweight people at risk for diabetes on either a lower-fat or lower-carb diet; after 8 weeks, the group who reduced their fat intake to 27 percent of their overall diet had significantly higher insulin secretion, improved insulin sensitivity and better glucose tolerance. For a 1,600-calorie diet, that equates to 48 daily grams of fat; for 2,200 calories, it's 66 grams. To help reduce fat grams, choose lean meats and non- or low-fat dairy products, use unsaturated vegetable oils, eat more leafy vegetables and fruits and less foods that contain large amounts of saturated fat, like cakes and cookies.
Get a trainer.
A structured and supervised exercise program (that includes aerobics and strength training) helped people with Type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels more effectively than just getting advice about working out more, according to a recent review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Scientists also found that exercising for longer periods of time was better at bringing blood sugar levels down than exercising more intensively. Currently, exercise guidelines recommend that people with Type 2 perform at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, and resistance training, such as weight lifting, three times a week.
Improve sleep habits.
Doing so may help you better manage your diabetes, says a new study in Diabetes Care. Researchers found that those with diabetes who suffered from insomnia had a 23 percent higher fasting blood glucose level, a 48 percent higher fasting insulin level and an 82 percent higher insulin resistance than the normal sleepers with diabetes. Some tips to sleep better: stick to regular bed and wake time, try relaxation techniques before bed (like taking a warm bath or listening to soothing music), keep your bedroom cool and dark, and skip exercise, caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime.
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