From AARP, by Peter Jaret, AARP Bulletin, October 2014
6. The healthiest foods for preventing type 2 diabetes don’t come with nutrition labels
Most experts recommend a heart-healthy diet to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. “Type 2 diabetes, because it damages blood vessels, raises your risk of heart disease — so the more you do to protect your heart, the better,” says Marjorie Cypress, president of health care and education at the American Diabetes Association. “And since type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight and obese, a lower-calorie diet that helps people lose excess weight will also lower risk.”
Participants in the Diabetes Prevention Program were all overweight, and most of the benefits they experienced were associated with losing roughly 7 percent of their body weight. Shedding pounds is notoriously difficult, of course. Lorber tries to cut through the confusion of competing diets by telling his patients to follow the “less of everything” plan. “For people who are overweight,” he says, “the key is consuming fewer calories.” Lustig’s advice: Steer clear of processed foods, which often contain added sugar and salt. Instead, build your diet around whole foods that have been refined as little as possible — brown rice, whole wheat and other unprocessed grains, nuts and seeds, beans, and generous helpings of fruits and vegetables.
7. Easing stress can lower your risk of diabetes
Stress at home or work may add to the risk of developing diabetes. In a 2014 study led by University of Colorado psychologist Mark Whisman, researchers found that men in rocky marriages had a higher prevalence of the disease than men in happier unions. Another study published last year found that chronic stress adds to the harmful effects of a high fat/high sugar diet, and may cause people to carry more abdominal fat and increase their risk of insulin resistance. “Stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine can bind to receptors on cells, including muscle and fat cells, and change the way they respond,” says Kirstin Aschbacher, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the study. “If you’re at risk of type 2 diabetes, it’s advisable to take some steps to manage stress.” Physical activity, which has many benefits, may help, as can meditation, yoga and breathing exercises.
8. It’s up to you
Physician Daniel Lorber sees many patients with diabetes. “As physicians, we counsel, we coach, we prescribe, we cheerlead. But the only person who treats diabetes is the person who has it.”
That’s the message S. Epatha Merkerson hopes to spread as she travels around the country. “If you’re at risk, it’s time to get tested. If you’ve got prediabetes or diabetes, work out a treatment plan with your doctor for a healthy diet, exercise and — if you need it — medication.” During a rehearsal for the new play she’ll be starring in, Merkerson discovered that several other people in the production have type 2 diabetes. “We were sharing all kinds of tips with each other,” she says. “And right now, my older brother, two years older than me, is really being challenged by his diabetes. We never really discussed it before,” she admits. “But believe me, we’re having that conversation now. That’s what we all need to start doing.”