Researchers at Harvard University have studied 3500 patients that had a gene variation known as TCF7L2. They found those who had this variation were 80% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Another study by Harvard University found that those who carried a gene variation called ARNT were also at high risk for type 2 diabetes.
We all know that we cannot change our genes (at least not yet!) The good news is we CAN decrease our genetic tendencies by using a healthy eating plan and having a fitness routine. There are many other significant changes which can add vitality to your life. Even after diabetes has developed we can see multiple benefits when making positive life style changes. I am not sure why we pledge to adjust behaviors around the New Year but I thought it was a good time to offer a few easy tips. Remember, small changes can have a huge impact on your health and well being and eventually can grow to big changes.
- Smart Exercise – You can call it what you want but you really have to do it. Any added motion means less body mass which makes it easier for you to move around and stick with it for longer periods of time. 500 people who exercised in Finland were studied for 7 years and results showed a decrease in total body mass from the exercise alone. Try to keep it positive – even if you hate exercising – by joining a walking group, a bicycle club, or any kind of class including yoga, Zumba, Pilates or Silver Sneakers. Having other people involved when exercising makes you more accountable. Also paying for the exercise program makes you more inclined to use it. You may even become the one to motivate others to stick to their program. Exercise should never make you feel exhausted. Think about 30-40 minutes of cardio fitness (walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, etc.) to build endurance 3-5 days a week. You can break that into 10 minute sessions if you need to, for lack of time or low physical stamina. Add weight training with free weights or machines 2-3 times a week for muscle strength which increases your metabolic rate and is proven to help insulin sensitivity; find someone to help you if you are not familiar with weights to prevent any injuries. A 10 minute walk gives you added energy for the following 2 hours and going outside gives you sunlight to help regulate circadian rhythms and boost mood.
- Cut down on TV time – Research on over 9,000 people showed that those who watched 4 or more hours of daily TV were at 80% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease; they were 46% more at risk of dying then those who watch less than 2 hours of daily TV. The concept – it is difficult to be active while sitting in the recliner. We now even fast forward through the commercials with no need to get up and move around since most of us TiVo or record shows.
- Power up nutrition – A study done at the University of Maryland showed changing your food intake to basic wholesome choices with less packaged foods decreased death and illness by 40%. It included low fat dairy, poultry, and fatty fish 2-3 times a week, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lots of plain water. Add a daily salad with a teaspoon of olive oil for fiber and mono unsaturated fat that will help keep you satiated. Vegetables have a high water content which makes you fell full sooner. Try to plan weekly meals before heading to the store and always write a list to include all needed ingredients; do not deviate to save time, money and extra calories from unneeded purchases. Lowering your daily food intake has been studied numerous times and a recent Harvard study suggests that it can boost your mental abilities including your memory. Starvation is not suggested – especially when you have diabetes – just try smaller portions throughout the day and include a minor cut back in total calories (you may want to address this with your physician or diabetes educator). Use smart phone apps which can keep you on track; they offer diabetes friendly recipes, varied selections and immediate calorie counts to keep you on target.
- Keep family, friends, co-workers and pets close by – Keeping up with relationships can lower your risk of dying by 50% as seen in over 148 recent studies. Closeness with others helps you handle stress, depression and anxiety which are rampant at this time of the year. Relationships can add meaning and purpose. Having other people or pets count on you increases your responsibility beyond ‘YOU being the center of attention.’ Surround yourself with those who are positive and display healthy attitudes and habits. This will encourage you to have an optimistic outlook on life too!
- ZZZZZZZ’s – Studies have shown there is a sweet spot for nightly amounts of sleep for most adults; it is between 7-8 hours per night. Even if night times sleep is disrupted count on day time naps to get you beyond fatigue. Sleeping less than 5 hours per night shortens life span as reported by research done at the University of San Diego. Sleep gives you the ability to repair and rest from the stressors of the day. It also helps keep hormone levels balanced with less circulating cortisol; cortisol has been known to raise blood sugars and increase belly or visceral fat.
- Get a blood pressure cuff and USE it – The digital arm cuffs are easy and reliable. Having your blood pressure checked once every 3 months or less does not give you enough information about blood pressure control. Remember, there is a phenomenon called ‘white coat syndrome’ which can occur at the physician’s office. It is a nervous reaction to the professional taking the reading and can cause a false elevation which could dictate unnecessary blood pressure medication. Testing at home allows you more flexibility and less risk of single inaccurate results. Remember, heart attacks and strokes are extremely common complications of diabetes and are related to elevated blood pressure.
- No smoking – ever – Find a way to quit if you really want a decent quality of life for you and those around you; consider 2nd and 3rd hand smoke. Smoking cures nothing and causes injury to every system in the body – especially when you have diabetes.
These are a few reasonable tips to get you started to better health for the New Year. Start slowly and stay steady. Change only a few at a time. Change is difficult especially as we age but hopefully you will be encouraged when you have more energy! Enjoy the holiday!
NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.
She is a member of the American Diabetes Association as well as the South Florida Association of Diabetes Educators. She worked with the education department of NBMC to help educate the hospital's in-patient nurses about diabetes. She practices a healthy lifestyle and has worked as a personal fitness trainer in the past.
She was one of the initiators of the North Broward Diabetes Center (NBMC) which started in 1990 and was one of the first American Diabetes Association (ADA) certified programs in Broward County, Florida for nearly two decades. Robbie has educated patients to care for themselves and has counseled them on healthy eating, heart disease, high lipids, use of glucometers, insulin and many other aspects of diabetes care. The NBMC Diabetes Center received the Valor Award from the American Diabetes Center for excellent care to their patients. Robbie has volunteered over the years as leader of many diabetes support groups.