There’s enough research to show how little tweaks in lifestyle can help keep this disease at bay
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New research shows that diabetes can cause much more damage in the body than earlier thought. A study published in September in the journal Circulation says people with diabetes, even those who appear otherwise healthy, have a sixfold higher risk of developing heart failure regardless of their cholesterol levels. Even prediabetes increases the risk of cancer by 15%, according to a meta-analysis by Chinese researchers, published in the journal Diabetologia in September.
That we are facing a diabetes epidemic is clear, but what is increasingly also becoming evident is that prevention is the most viable route to checking this disease. Ahead of World Diabetes Day on 14 November, we bring you 10 facts, all based on research and advice from experts, that can help you develop your own diabetes prevention strategies.
Beat work stress
German researchers have discovered that those who face a high level of pressure at work are at a 45% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who face less stress at work. In the study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in August, Prof. Karl-Heinz Ladwig, who led the study, writes: “According to our data, roughly one in five people in employment is affected by high levels of mental stress at work. By that, scientists do not mean ‘normal job stress’ but rather the situation in which the individuals concerned rate the demands made upon them as very high, and at the same time they have little scope for maneuvre or for decision making. We covered both these aspects in great detail in our surveys.”
Samir Parikh, a psychiatrist and director of the department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences and National Mental Health Program at Fortis Healthcare, says preventive measures to prevent stress-induced diabetes should begin at work. “Maintain a work-life balance, develop support mechanisms, take multiple short mental breaks during the day, learn to delegate and try to work with teams so you are not overworked,” he suggests.
According to a study published in February in Diabetologia, high consumption of yogurt, rather than no consumption, improves your chances of preventing diabetes by 28%. So have it the way you like it—as plain dahi, a vegetable raita or a yogurt-based smoothie—but try to have it every day.
Walk to work
Researchers from the Imperial College London surveyed 20,000 people across the UK and found that those who walk to work are around 40% less likely to have diabetes compared to those who drive. The findings of the study were published in August on the research news website ScienceDaily.
In 2012, another study had found that if your neighbourhood is conducive to walking, your chance of developing diabetes could be reduced by 50%. A 2012 study published in Diabetes Care, by the American Diabetes Association, found that walking more than 3,500 steps a day lowers the odds of diabetes tremendously.
Shalini Jaggi, diabetologist, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, New Delhi, agrees: “Walking every day, or in fact any kind of physical exercise, helps in breaking down insulin resistance and maintain sensitivity to insulin—which helps to keep diabetes at bay,” she explains.
Throw out the cigarettes
Living together doesn’t just mean sharing household tasks, it could also mean sharing diabetes. According to a study, published in January in ScienceDaily, by researchers from the McGill University Health Centre in Québec, Canada, there is a clear link between spouses for high diabetes risk; apparently if your spouse has type 2 diabetes, your risk of getting the disease increases by 26%. What this means is that if a spouse is suffering from diabetes then one may need to look a little more closely at, and correct, poor eating habits and low levels of physical activity.
A study on more than 8,500 Canadian patients, published in the American Journal Of Respiratory And Critical Care Medicine in June, has demonstrated a link between obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and the development of diabetes. “Numerous studies in the past too have shown an increase of diabetes in moderate to severe OSA and timely treatment for OSA helps improve insulin sensitivity. Keeping this in mind, the International Diabetes Federation has recommended sleep study screening to detect OSA in time,” says Manvir Bhatia, director and senior consultant in neurology and sleep medicine, Neurology and Sleep Centre, New Delhi. “Loud persistent snoring, feeling tired/sleepy during the day and choking and difficulty in breathing are common symptoms of OSA,” she says.
Use smaller spoons and plates to eat; besides exercising, eating smaller portions is important to knock off extra pounds. That knocking off extra weight is an effective diabetes prevention step has been conclusively proved by research for a while now. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a major, multi-centre clinical research study of 3,234 people at high risk of diabetes (who had prediabetes and were obese), directly links weight loss to diabetes prevention. It was published way back in 2002 in the New England Journal Of Medicine. “Being overweight can keep your body from making and using insulin properly, leading to diabetes. And reducing weight by as little as 5-10% can also have a significant impact,” adds Dr Gujral.
In addition, cinnamon contains a lot of trace minerals like chromium, copper, iodine, iron and manganese, which are essential to help prevent diabetes. So add it when baking, or add a pinch to your morning or evening cup of tea.
Get your omega
DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, is, according to research published in 2010 in the journal Cell, the key to inhibiting inflammation, thus lowering the risk of diseases like diabetes. DHA is found throughout the body, and is the major fat in the brain. Oily fish, such as mackerel, herring, salmon, trout and sardines, are the best dietary source; algae and seaweed are the only vegetarian sources.