February is American Heart Month, a time when all people can focus on their cardiovascular health.  If you have diabetes, you’re twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke than someone who doesn’t have diabetes—and at a younger age. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to have heart diseaseBut the good news is that you can lower your risk for heart disease and improve your heart health by changing certain lifestyle habits.

According to Reuter’s the number of people living with diabetes has now soared to over 366 million,  killing one person every 7 seconds resulting in 4.6 million deaths worldwide every year. This disease is posing a “massive challenge” to healthcare systems worldwide.

Poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise are all linked with those with Type 2 diabetes.   As people in the developing world adopt more Western lifestyles, diabetes is growing.   According to T. Colin Campbell, PhD, author of The China Study, a diet typically ‘Western’ in character, was high in calories, animal protein, [total] fat and animal fat.  Countries with a low rates of diabetes used a diet that was relatively lower in protein (particularly animal protein), fat and animal fat.    These researchers found the strongest association with diabetes was excess weight.  Populations eating the most ‘Western’ type of diet also had the highest cholesterol levels, which in turn was strongly associated with the rate of diabetes.  Managing stress levels is also a big factor ~ using mediatation, exercise, deep breathing and a good support system all can help with this.

With $465 billion dollars now being spent on diabetic healthcare alone, perhaps it is time to get the word out about the dangers of our Western lifestyle.  Giving up meat and high-fat foods is a challenge; however, having a lifelong condition that cannot be cured by drugs or surgery; a condition that often leads to heart disease, stroke, blindness or amputation; a condition that might require one to inject insulin into their body every day for the rest of their life ~ I think that’s pretty challenging!

One of the biggest food challenges (I cannot really call it food) is soft drinks.  According to US News Health, Diabetes Care found that people with a daily habit of just one or two sugar-sweetened beverages—anything from sodas and energy drinks to sweetened teas and vitamin water—were more than 25 percent likelier to develop type 2 diabetes than were similar individuals who had no more than one sugary drink per month.  One-a-day guzzlers in the study also had a 20 percent higher rate of metabolic syndrome,  a collection of indicators such as high triglyceride levels suggesting that diabetes is not far off.

Did you know that just ten to twenty minutes of light exercise after each meal helps to reduce the amount of insulin necessary to keep blood sugar levels under control.?  A brisk walk gets the body’s metabolism working a little bit faster so that the absorption of food is more easily distributed.  That prevents blood sugar from rising too high.  The best diet consists of organic vegetarian foods, eaten raw, sprouted, steamed, baked, or stir-fried with little or no oil.  Complex carbohydrates, not simple carbohydrates (such as bagels, chips, desserts, white rice, etc.) actually stabilize and improve improve health by not contributing to the high blood sugar levels.  Are we ready to make these drastic food choices?

Alternative approaches including, of course,  daily exercise and dietary modification is a great start.    One of the ways I work at maintaining a healthy weight is taking a delicious shake each morning, containing 6 grams of dietary fiber, 24 grams of protein with a low glycemic index.  It really gives me a lot of energy without the fat and sugar of a normal “western” breakfast.   The exercise is understandably a healthy choice.

Truly taking charge of our health and not becoming a statistic is achievable.  Our bodies will thank us every day for the rest of our lives.  With more than half of all Americans with a health problem that requires taking a prescription drug every week, it is time to make a change.  What about you?  Do you or a family member fall into this diabetes statistic?

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