It used to be a problem of age - the onset of Type 2 diabetes. But now even kids and teens are coming down with this major drag of a disease.
Having too much sugar in your blood can damage your eyes, arteries and heart, cause kidney failure and even kill you. The good news is that recent research shows that even if your latest blood test shows pre-diabetic changes, you can repair the damage through diet and exercise.
Start by using the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator, which computes your height in relation to your weight. You can do this easily by clicking on to www.prevention.com or several other sites. Come in over 25? Get a weight loss program underway. The BMI is not a perfect measure - for one thing, well-toned folks with a lot of muscle will show up as overweight. But it does provide a rough guide.
Even if your BMI is 25 or under, if your waist-to-hip ratio is high, there's still potential trouble ahead. To check this, measure your waist at the smallest point, then measure your hips at the widest.Divide your waist measurement by your hip. If the answer is more than .76 (for women) or .89 (for men), you need to get fat off your midriff. A big waist raises your chances of diabetes.
Your best bet for creating and maintaining a healthier body lies in aerobic exercise and a low-glycemic diet. Low-glycemic-index foods release sugar into your bloodstream more slowly, putting less stress on the hormonal systems that keep your metabolism healthy.
Though this whole area is the subject of much debate, many experts believe the method has merit. You can find a table outlining the glycemic properties of common foods at www. prevention.com. Hosted by the University of Sydney, www. glycemicindex. com has an enormous database.
Some of the glycemic readings are actually counterintuitive - plain potatoes are high on the index and brown rice is only intermediate, not low. But generally, veggies, beans and some whole grains do well, processed foods do not.
Also know that some high-glycemic-index foods can be combined with low-glycemic-index foods like lemon juice, vinegar, healthy fats (fish or flax oil), and/or protein to lower their impact.
Both under- and overeating stress your hormone balance, too. Don't let yourself go without food. Eat three meals a day plus snacks, and include protein in your breakfast. The way you handle stress influences blood sugar levels and where your body fat goes. So another important part of preventing diabetes is figuring out not only what to eat, but what is eating you.
"To prevent diabetes, it's important to recognize if you're at risk. After age 40, get your blood tested every three years. Get tested earlier and/or more often if you're overweight, especially around your middle; if you have polycystic ovary syndrome, acanthosis nigricans or schizophrenia; if you have a relative with diabetes; if you're of aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian or African descent; if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney disease, eye disease, nerve damage or impotence; if you had a baby that weighed more than 9 lbs at birth; or if you've been told you have impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose."
LYNN BAUGHAN , RN, manager of diabetes education programs and strategies, Canadian Diabetes Association, Toronto
"Definitely, eat foods low on the glycemic index. A diet high in high-glycemic-index foods causes a constant release of insulin. Eventually, you will become insulin-resistant because your cells have had to deal with too much of it. Then you end up with high levels of insulin and sugar in the blood, and that starts to cause damage. Insulin is also a fat-storage hormone. When sugar is not being used by the body for energy, insulin tells the body to store it as fat. When you can't lose weight, it's because your body can't metabolize the insulin and the sugar. We use an individually tailored diet along with homeopathic remedies to address this."
MARLENE MARSHALL , registered nutritional consulting practitioner, Markham
"(I use) the Mayo Clinic healthy weight pyramid (see www.mayoclinic.com). Eating foods in those ratios, you'll get fibre, chromium, good fats (diabetes preventatives). I have people chart what they eat for a week. Then they average it out and put it into an empty triangle. People can compare their pyramid to the Mayo pyramid. Do that every three to six months to stay on top of things. Stress directly affects the way fat is laid down in your body, which affects diabetes development. I recommend yogic alternate nostril breathing before bed at night. Also, 10 minutes a day, write whatever's on your mind, no editing. Things come out that otherwise wouldn't."
ALISON O'BRIEN-MORAN , naturopathic doctor, Platinum Wellness Clinic, Toronto
"To lower your chance of getting diabetes, make the kidney energy strong. Mango and soup made from special Chinese vegetables can help. See an acupuncturist. Exercise like Tai Chi or Chi Gung is good for the kidneys . Strong exercise like sports damages the tissues and causes energy loss. People who play volleyball or basketball have so many problems when they get old. It's important to stay relaxed. If you get angry and sad easily or worry too much, it's hard for the kidneys to calm down."
CECILIA ZHANG , doctor of traditional Chinese medicine (China), Toronto
"I have found that most overweight people have deep inside a desire to punish themselves because of subconscious guilt. Believing God is punitive (causes the problem). If in a past life someone died in starvation, this entity may not know he or she died and still suffers from hunger, so the person can develop food cravings. I have to let this entity know it's dead; then the person can move to a happier place. If the childhood is bad, the child feels relieved when eating sweets. Then, every time the adult feels nervous or depressed, he or she wants sweets."
TAKASHI ARAKI , hypnotherapist, spiritual and energy healer, Toronto