The most recent statistics on type 2 diabetes make for unsettling reading:  the disease affects over 8 per cent of all Americans and over 11 per cent of adults aged 20 and older. It has been estimated that over 7 million Americans may have diabetes but not even know it yet.  Although it is considered a “manageable” disease, a diagnosis of diabetes is not something anyone is going to want to hear.  Having higher-than-normal levels of blood sugar associated with type 2 diabetes can lead to complications such as kidney and eye damage, and it is believed that it may also lead to an increased likelihood of developing osteoporosis and even Alzheimer’s disease.  One statistic that doesn’t get mentioned a lot is the fact that diabetes is currently the 7th leading cause of death in America.

In recent years there has been a distinct shift away from the use of drugs for several diseases such as type 2 diabetes.  This has coincided with a general move away from man-made synthetic medications to a more natural and holistic approach to medicine in general.  While there are many drugs on the market that doctors will be happy to prescribe you if you are diagnosed with diabetes, not everyone agrees that this is the best course of action.  In fact many medical professionals believe that a change in diet and increased exercise may well be the best option for people who develop this condition.

Let’s look at why this is the case.  Recent studies have found that not only are they not very effective against type 2 diabetes, they can actually have serious harmful side-effects, especially on the cardiovascular system.  One study ( the ‘Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes’ study) found that with certain drugs there was an even increase in the risk of heart attack and death!  Because type 2 diabetes is not a fatal disease, it can be thought of as a condition that people can bring under control themselves, without the use of medication.

If you have recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, or have been told that you are at risk for developing the disease later on in life, the good news is that there are a range of lifestyle factors that you change that will help.  First and foremost you should consider your diet.  Most of the literature on diabetic diet foods suggest that you should stick to a low glycemic diet – foods that cause small blood sugar rises that don’t last for a long time. These type of foods are also sometimes referred to as “low GI”.  Many low glycemic foods are digested slowly, which means they will deliver a steady amount of energy during the day.  It is also true that the more processed a food is, the more glycemic it will be.  It is not surprising, therefore, to find that the best type of foods for a diabetic diet are natural, unprocessed food such as whole grain wheat breads, oatmeal, beans, lean proteins such as turkey and chicken, fruit and healthy oils such as olive oil.  Foods that are considered very starchy, such as pasta and potatoes should be avoided.  This type of healthy eating plan is often referred to as a “Mediterranean-style” diet.  There are many publications that can help you create an effective and stress-free diet plan to manage your diabetes.

Additionally it has been suggested that there are a range of vitamins and minerals that may help in assisting the management of diabetes.  A study led by Esther Krug, MD, from the Sinai Hospital of Baltimore found that more than 90 per cent of the type 2 diabetes patients were found to be deficient in vitamin D.  There is also some evidence that shows that the mineral chromium can help your body break down blood sugar, and may be effective in helping to manage diabetes.  Chromium can be found in several foods such as liver, spinach and eggs, but you can also take it as a supplement.

If you’re looking for more information on the role of vitamins and minerals in preventing and managing type 2 diabetes, the internet has become an invaluable resource (although always make sure that the information is being provided by reputable sources or medical professionals).

Weight gain is one of the main risk factors for developing diabetes.  It is also a double whammy for people who take insulin because weight gain is a common side effect of taking the hormone.  So managing your weight is one of the critical elements to maintaining a healthy lifestyle for diabetics.  Exercising regularly is very beneficial, and most medical professionals will recommend at least 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily.  Exercise helps you to manage your diabetes (or to prevent developing the disease) in many ways including to prevent you from gaining too much excess weight and help your insulin to work more effectively within your body.  Brisk walking and aerobic exercises are particularly good at helping you to stay fit and healthy.

While there is no cure for type 2 diabetes just yet, with a carefully planned healthy eating plan and regular exercise, you will be able to successfully manage the disease without drugs. Often it is a natural that the first port of call for people when they are diagnosed with a condition like diabetes is to a medical professional to get medication.  It is good to know that there may be alternative ways to manage the disease if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of taking drugs.  Obviously if you’ve tried modifying your diet and exercise and finding that it isn’t enough to control your diabetes, you may need to talk to your doctor.

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