Incorporating a WELL Lifestyle can help to prevent or halt Diabetes! November is National Diabetes Month, a time when communities across the country team up to bring attention to diabetes.

By Angela Ambrose, contributing writer

Healthy Eating and Exercise to Slow or Reverse Diabetes?

Many diabetics view their diagnosis as a lifelong sentence of taking daily medications and dealing with the complications of chronically elevated blood sugar levels. However, numerous studies indicate that small lifestyle changes have the potential to prevent or halt the progression of this disease.

Over 30 million Americans have diabetes, and nearly one-quarter of these cases are undiagnosed, according to the 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Diabetes Cases Are Soaring

Diabetes is expected to dramatically increase from one in 10 Americans to one in three by the year 2050. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, in which the body’s cells develop insulin resistance.

The alarming rate of type 2 diabetes is fueled by unhealthy lifestyle trends such as obesity, physical inactivity and poor eating habits. A growing aging population may push this rate even higher in the coming years. Other risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood glucose.

More than one-third of Americans have prediabetes, which puts them at high risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Adopt a Healthy Whole Food Diet

Many people rely heavily on medications to manage their diabetes and overlook the single most important factor in controlling diabetes — eating healthy foods and limiting portion sizes.

“In many cases, diabetes can be completely reversed, particularly in the early stages, if we start with the dietary treatment of diabetes early enough after the diagnosis,” says Dr. Hana Kahleova, director of clinical research for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and author of Vegetarian Diet in the Treatment of Diabetes. “Oftentimes, after switching to a predominantly plant-based diet, people start losing weight, their blood sugar normalizes, and they may even be able to reduce or completely drop off their medications.”

Kahleova recommends a diet that emphasizes plant-based whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. While no single eating pattern is right for everyone, the American Diabetes Association suggests the Mediterranean, DASH and vegetarian diets as healthy options to consider.

Exercise Regularly in Short Spurts

Exercise not only strengthens the body and burns calories, but also helps release tension and reduce cortisol stress hormones, which may have a positive impact on glucose levels. When you exercise, your cells become more responsive to insulin, which allows more glucose from your blood into your cells to use as fuel when you work out.

All physical activity offers benefits, but for most people brisk walking is the simplest way to get started. Aim for 30 minutes daily with short bursts of exercise spread out throughout the day.

“For people with diabetes, it’s better to go on a brisk walk after each meal for 10 minutes,” says Kahleova. “That helps with glycemic control better than just one workout session for 30 minutes.”

Get More Sleep, Sunshine and Vitamin D

Getting enough sleep and going to bed early can increase the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which in turn, promotes insulin sensitivity. Kahleova recommends going to bed no later than 10 p.m. and getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Reducing your exposure to blue light from digital devices two hours before bed can also improve sleep.

To up your production of melatonin at night, spend time outdoors in the sunlight. This also helps your body produce more vitamin D.

“Many people with diabetes are vitamin D deficient,” says Kahleova. “Vitamin D is important, not only for bone density and calcium, but also for our immune system and increasing insulin sensitivity.

Shedding a Few Pounds Can Make a Big Difference

About 88 percent of adults with diagnosed diabetes are either overweight or obese. Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your body weight and exercising for 20 to 30 minutes daily may help prevent or slow the progression of type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC’s latest Consensus Report.

For a person weighing 200 pounds, that means losing 10 to 20 pounds.

Be Open to Change

We can’t change our genetics, but we do have the ability to change our eating, exercise and sleep habits.

“If we all made these small changes, the rate of diabetes would go down dramatically,” says Kahleova. “These are things that are doable. We just need to do them consistently.”

WELL Challenge! Share your own stories about nutrition, exercise and sleep habits that work for you! Here are two simple ways to share. Choose the one that works best for you:

  1. From your smartphone, visit EnsignTherapy.com, click “WELL” at the top of the page, then click “Share your Story” from the top of the WELL Site. There you’ll find room to share a short story and upload a picture from your phone.
  2. From your Instagram account, share a picture and caption and remember to hashtag both #CAPLICOwell and #CAPLICOnation.

We look forward to seeing your inspiring stories as a collaborator to our WELL Project.