Here’s one trend you don’t want to be part of: The number of Americans with diabetes has tripled since the ’80s to almost 20 million, and the disease also ups your odds of everything from stroke to blindness. The good news? You can ward off illness, and help reverse any damage you already have, by adopting these stay-healthy strategies.
1) Have Your Carbs Au Natural
You don’t have to join the low-carb craze to shed inches and lower your diabetes risk-you just have to eat the right types. Dieters who cut 500 calories and got their carbs from only whole grains lost about twice as much belly fat (a diabetes risk factor) as those who cut the same amount of calories but ate only refined carbs, reveals the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Try swapping refined white breads and rice for unprocessed, fiber-rich carbs, such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Bonus: They keep blood sugar from spiking and then crashing so you’ll feel full longer than if you downed a bag of chips.
2) Hit the Sack Sooner
Here’s more incentive for you to stay in bed: People clocking five hours or less shut-eye a night are about twice as likely to get the disease, reports the journal Sleep. “Lack of sleep can increase appetite and reduce insulin sensitivity, which are both risk factors for diabetes,” says lead study author James E. Gangwisch, Ph.D. of Columbia University. Most people need between seven and nine hours a night: Discover your magic number by noting your sleep patterns when you’re not using an alarm clock, such as when you’re on vacation.
3) Eat Like the Spanish
Spain is known for flamenco dancing and sweet sangria, but their greatest national treasure may be their healthy diet. In fact, eating Mediterranean style may slash your odds of diabetes by 83 percent-even if you have high risk factors such as a family history, finds a new study in the British Medical Journal. One reason may be that the diet is rich in virgin olive oil, which has antioxidants known as polyphenols that cut inflammation linked to the disease. Aim to have about four tablespoons of virgin olive oil daily: Try swapping with butter on bread or for vegetable oil when cooking, suggests lead study author Miguel A. Martinez-Gonzalez, M.D., from the University of Navarra in Spain.