In 2020, a year in which COVID-19 dominated the headlines, a largely preventable disease killed three times as many people: Diabetes. That epidemic is being driven by lifestyle choices, and you might be putting yourself in harm’s way without realizing it. In particular, too much of one thing in your daily routine can cause a deadly case of diabetes. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is the body’s inability to process sugar (or glucose). When a non-diabetic person consumes sugar, their pancreas releases an enzyme called insulin to convert it to energy. A diabetic person’s pancreas may make less insulin or stop making it altogether, or the body may become resistant to insulin. If too much sugar builds up in the blood for too long, that can damage blood vessels, potentially leading to deadly health problems like heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that is often diagnosed in childhood. But type 2 diabetes is directly connected to diet and lifestyle choices, and it’s exploding in the United States: Experts predict that one in 10 people will have diabetes by the year 2045.
What Habit Can Lead to Diabetes?
There are several risk factors for type 2 diabetes, but the biggest is a diet high in added sugar. That can contribute to obesity, which is a risk factor for diabetes. When the body is swamped with sugar (and not just sweet stuff—many processed foods contain simple carbs and refined grains that the body quickly converts to sugar), it can become resistant to insulin.
“Diabetes is when your body cannot provide enough insulin to allow glucose (sugar) into the hungry cells of your body,” explains Thomas Horowitz, DO, a family medicine specialist at CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. “The best way to avoid it is to be on a diet that does not task your insulin supply.”
Avoid These Things
That means avoiding
sugar-sweetened drinks like soda and juices
refined grains like white bread, cookies, chips, and baked goods
other ultra-processed foods
Instead, choose whole foods that are low in added sugar and contain complex carbohydrates that break down slowly, like whole grains and vegetables.
Stop This Now
It’s especially important to limit or avoid beverages with added sugar, like sugar-sweetened sodas. One can of sugar-sweetened Coke contains 39 grams of added sugar—more than a person should consume from all sources in an entire day, experts say.
And Do This ASAP
To reduce your diabetes risk or manage diabetes, getting more physical activity is key. “Together with diet and behavior modification, exercise is an essential component of all diabetes and obesity prevention and lifestyle intervention programs,” said researchers in a 2017 study published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity and builds lean muscle, which can speed your metabolism, helping you reach and maintain a healthy weight. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
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