According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29.1 million Americans were living with diabetes as of 2012. An additional 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes, a condition in which their blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to meet diagnostic criteria for diabetes. Though people with pre-diabetes do not yet have diabetes, they are at increased risk for developing the condition later in life.
Fortunately, lifestyle changes can lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Here, you will learn about five ways to reduce your risk for this disease and lower your blood sugar levels.
Add Walking to Your Routine
Light exercise such as walking can lower your blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. In a 1999 study in Diabetes Care, 20 women without type 2 diabetes walked one hour per day, five days per week, for a total of 12 weeks. Their A1c levels, which are a measure of average blood sugar during the previous 2-3 month period, decreased significantly.
A second study in a 2009 edition of the same journal involved 87 individuals with abnormal blood sugar levels. Members of the intervention group in this study received an education program and were given pedometers to help them meet daily walking goals. There were also two control groups. After 12 months, those in the intervention group significantly reduced post-meal and fasting blood sugar levels, when compared to those in the control groups.
Additional research in a 2003 edition of Preventive Medicine has found a relationship between walking and lower blood sugar. This study, which included 18 overweight women with a familial history of type 2 diabetes, involved an eight-week walking program. Prior to the program, participants averaged 4,972 steps per day. After the program, they increased their daily steps to 9,213, which significantly reduced their blood sugar levels after meals.
Lose Some Weight
Weight loss can result in lower blood sugar levels and a significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. A 2014 study in Diabetes Care found that weight loss was associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and lower fasting blood sugar levels.
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A second study in a 2013 edition of the journal Obesity analyzed the impact of weight loss among obese subjects with metabolic abnormalities. Results showed that those who lost 5 percent of their body weight experienced significant improvements in fasting blood sugar levels compared to those who did not lose weight.
Lower your own blood sugar levels by committing to a weight loss plan. By reducing your calorie intake and adding regular exercise to your routine, you can drop enough weight to protect yourself from diabetes.
Cut out Sugary Drinks
Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, iced tea, and sports drinks, can increase your risk of diabetes. Those who drink one to two sugar sweetened beverages per day are 26 percent more likely to develop diabetes than those who consume less than one such beverage per month, according to a 2010 study in Diabetes Care. In addition, a 2013 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that those who increased their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages during a six-year period were 1.6 times more likely to develop elevated fasting blood sugar levels.
Reducing your intake of these sugary beverages can lower your risk of diabetes. According to a 2013 study in the journal PLoS ONE, a 10-20 percent reduction in the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages would reduce new cases of diabetes. Specifically, replacing sugary beverages with water can have a beneficial impact on your health. A 2007 study in Obesity found that those who replaced sugary beverages with water cut their daily energy intake by 200 calories. This reduction could help with weight loss and therefore reduce your diabetes risk.
Increase Your Fiber Intake
Adding fiber to your diet can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. A 2014 study in the European Journal of Epidemiology found that total fiber intake was associated with a reduced risk of diabetes. Specifically, those who consumed 30 grams of fiber per day were 24 percent less likely to develop diabetes.
Another study in a 2004 edition of Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice found a relationship between fiber intake and blood sugar levels. Study participants who followed a high-fiber diet reduced their fasting glucose levels by 12.3 percent after 3 months.
Spice Things up with Cinnamon
Perhaps surprisingly, cinnamon can lower your blood sugar levels. A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adding cinnamon to a rice pudding meal significantly reduced blood sugar levels after the meal.
A 2012 study in Nutrition & Metabolism Insights found that those who consumed cinnamon for 9 weeks reduced their blood sugar levels. Bake with cinnamon or use it to add flavor to cereal or yogurt, and you may lower your own blood sugar levels.
Adding cinnamon to your diet is just one of several ways to reduce your blood sugar levels and your risk of diabetes. By following the strategies here, including losing weight, going for a walk, increasing fiber intake, and cutting out sugary drinks, you can protect yourself from this disease.