Can you prevent diabetes if it runs in your family?

It’s hard to categorise diabetes as anything other than an epidemic. With 77 million Indians diagnosed with diabetes—a number that roughly translates to 1 in every 11 Indians—it’s time to create more awareness about this disease and reduce its risk.

When it comes to type-II diabetes, most of us believe that genetic links are the sole cause of the disease. While research suggests that people with one parent or sibling with diabetes have a 40% chance of developing diabetes—a number that increases to 70% if both parents or an identical twin has it—diabetes isn’t always an inherited disease.

Medical research also suggests that genetics alone cannot account for the incidence of type-2 diabetes; our lifestyle choices also play a big role. 

Non-Genetic Causes Of Type-2 Diabetes

Unhealthy lifestyle and diabetes go hand in hand. The sad truth is that this type of diabetes, which was once a disease of the elderly, has become more and more prevalent amongst the young. These lifestyle factors are the reason why: 

Unhealthy diet: Diets that are high in trans-fat, processed sugars, carbohydrates, and fructose corn syrup leads to high blood glucose levels and obesity. All these foods have been linked to the development of visceral fat and NAFLD (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease), both of which cause type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. 

Sedentary life: The longer we sit, the slower our metabolism gets. This change in our metabolism can lead to insulin resistance, a condition in which the body can’t take glucose from the blood easily—which can eventually lead to diabetes.

Poor sleep habits: Disturbed sleep such as, repeated awakenings during the night, insufficient sleep, and irregular sleep all lead to glucose intolerance. Conditions like insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea can also cause type 2 diabetes. Poor sleep increases cortisol levels which makes it difficult for the hormone insulin to work properly—making sleep an important factor in warding off diabetes. 

Biohacks to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes 

Even if you have a family history of diabetes, you can very well reduce your risk by tweaking your lifestyle. Small, specific, targeted lifestyle changes—known as biohacks—can go a long way in helping you take full control of your health and stay safe from the disease. Here are a few biohacks you can get started with:


1. Get at least 2.5 hours of exercise every week

Exercise is the best way to lose weight, keep the body fit, and reduce glucose levels in the body. By being physically active consistently, you can ensure your risk of type-2 diabetes is 21% lower. And if you’re wondering how much exercise is enough to reach this goal, here’s help: 

  1. Try to include at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of aerobic exercises in a week—including brisk walking, swimming, biking, jogging, running etc. You can also take a 30-minute walk after lunch to decrease your lunch-time glucose spike duration and intensity.
  2. Combining aerobic exercise with resistance training two to three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes can boost your strength, balance, and ability to maintain a strong body. 
  3. To get more movement in your work day, take a quick walk for about 5 minutes after every 30 minutes. 
  1. Optimise your sleep 

Getting at least 7 hours of sleep is vital for our overall health, especially when it comes to reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. To regulate your sleep cycle, you can set a go-to-bed reminder and a wake-up alarm at the same time every day. 

Additionally, you can monitor your blood sugar levels before going to bed. Keeping your blood sugar levels within the target range at night can ensure your sleep doesn’t get affected with the fluctuating glucose levels at night.

  1. Tweak your diet for better blood sugar 

Our diet plays an important role in not just providing our body proper nutrition for optimal functioning, but also reducing the risk of diabetes. 

Start by reducing your carbohydrate intake in every meal. Include foods with a low glycemic index, which are slowly digested and absorbed in the bloodstream—thus causing smaller spikes in your blood sugar levels. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, and quinoa are a few low-GI foods you can easily include in your diet.

Healthy fats—mainly unsaturated fats—promote healthy blood cholesterol levels and good vascular health. To get your daily dose of these, have a tablespoon of olive oil with each meal. You can also opt for sunflower and canola oil, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. 

Monitor your body to ward off diabetes

By monitoring your blood sugar levels, you’ll be able to better understand your body and make corrective decisions sooner. While you’re at it, you must also pay attention to a few other biomarkers–like HRV and your sleep data to ensure everything is in order.

  1. Rely on glucose monitors daily screenings
    Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and blood glucose meters (BGM) are commonly used to measure blood sugar levels. You must measure before and after meals, after workout, and after sleep to check for fluctuating levels of glucose.
     
  2. Rely on blood tests to understand your risk
    Blood tests can help predict type-2 diabetes. Here are a few you must get done regularly:
     
  1. A1C test is a simple blood test that measures your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months.
  2. Fasting blood sugar test is another common test to measure the level of sugar after an 8 to 12-hour window of fasting.
  3. Elevated uric acid levels or hyperuricemia can predict type 2 diabetes.
  4. Liver enzyme tests specifically targeting ALT levels can indicate a potential risk for type 2 diabetes. Liver function test is also useful in assessing NAFLD which can also lead to type-2 diabetes.
  5. Another blood test that can detect potential risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease is one that measures C-reactive protein.
  6. Finally, please test your fasting insulin levels. Rising levels can be one of the earliest signs of insulin resistance and action can be taken years in advance of a formal disease diagnosis.
  1. Use your smartwatch to measure heart rate variability data
    HRV is the variation in the time interval between heartbeats. Studies have shown that healthy individuals with low HRV are more likely to develop type-2 diabetes. A high HRV score while at rest is indicative of better health.

Trust your slumber with sleep devices

Tracking your sleep in its different phases (REM and NREM) can make you aware whether you are getting the required amount of rest, which can reduce risk of type 2 diabetes.

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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