Everyday Ways To Reduce Your Diabetes Risk

Businessman Lighting a Cigar(BlackDoctor.org) — Researchers and medical professionals have been saying for years that healthy lifestyle choices can reduce the risks of developing Type II diabetes. New studies by the National Institutes of Health demonstrate that various individual healthy practices may actually reduce the risk even more significantly than originally believed, and these strategies can combine synergistically in dramatic ways.

Smoking

It is common knowledge that smoking is unhealthy, but new research shows that not smoking decreases your risk of developing diabetes by as much as 20 percent. Many chemicals contained in cigarettes cause inflammation and can have a toxic and unhealthy impact on the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. Additionally, it appears that much of the damage from smoking can be reversed in individuals who adopt healthy lifestyles and have not smoked for an inordinately long period of time.

Physical Activity

A sedentary lifestyle greatly increases the risk of diabetes, and only twenty minutes of sweat-inducing exercise at least three or four times per week can greatly reduce your potential for the disease. Exercise is also good for reducing stress, improving cardiovascular health and circulation, so it is always a win-win situation.

Healthy Diet

Eating a heart-healthy and sensible diet can reduce the risk of diabetes by approximately fifteen percent. Emphasize fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins while avoiding processed, fried and fatty foods, and this is the basic building blocks of a healthy diet and lifestyle, not to mention the avoidance of diabetes.

Alcohol

Drinking more than one drink a day (for women) and two drinks a day (for men) definitely boosts the probability of developing diabetes. While red wine has been shown to have benefits for cardiovascular health, even those who do not drink alcohol are still at risk of diabetes in terms of other lifestyle areas. Overall, moderate alcohol consumption is the safest route to take if you choose to drink at all.

Obesity

Much has been written about weight control and the risks posed by obesity, and recent studies do indeed bear out the notion that even being slightly overweight makes diabetes a much more significant possibility. Carrying extra weight increases inflammation throughout the body, reducing cells’ sensitivity to insulin, the hormone most crucial for the control of blood sugar.

“The Perfect Storm”

According to the research, individuals can decrease their risk of developing diabetes by up to eighty percent if all potential lifestyle areas are addressed in a positive way. A healthy diet, optimal body weight, refraining from smoking, moderate alcohol intake and moderate exercise all combine to create a “perfect storm” that makes diabetes an unwelcome and improbable guest. Research shows that such changes in lifestyle can begin at any age, and the benefits are great no matter when the individual chooses to implement them.

While such changes in lifestyle can be difficult to begin and maintain, each individual lifestyle change carries the possibility of reducing diabetes risk by 31% for men and 39% for women. These numbers are significant, encouraging, and may indeed spawn a new interest in preventing diabetes while improving overall health.

Heart Trouble: Why Blacks Suffer More

man clutching chest(BlackDoctor.org) — A new study hints at one reason that black Americans are at a higher risk of death from heart disease than whites: Blacks appear to have higher levels of a certain type of plaque that builds up in arteries and is not detected in standard screening.

This so-called “non-calcified plaque” — which consists of soft deposits that accumulate deep in the walls of arteries — can rupture and send out blood clots that can lead to heart attacks.

The new study looks specifically at non-calcified plaque, not calcified plaque, which is commonly monitored in coronary screening tests. The study authors said ordinary calcium screening tests such as CT scans may not be as valid for blacks since they miss the non-calcified plaque.

“For a long time, physicians have searched for explanations as to why African Americans have higher rates of heart disease and higher cardiac death rates, but less coronary artery calcium than Caucasians,” said study co-author Dr. U. Joseph Schoepf, professor of radiology and medicine and director of cardiovascular imaging at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, in a news release. “We show that one possible explanation for the discrepancy may be found in the higher rate of less stable, non-calcified plaque in the heart vessels of African Americans.”

Federal statistics show that blacks are more likely than whites to be diagnosed with heart disease and die of it.

In the study, researchers screened 301 patients for both kinds of plaque using two kinds of technology: CT and contrast-enhanced coronary CT angiography technology. (The latter allows monitoring of different kinds of plaques.) Half the patients were black and half were white, and a third were male. The average age was 55.

Researchers found that non-calcified plaque was much more common in black patients: 64 percent of them had it, compared to 41 percent of whites. Blacks also had more of the plaque in their arteries.

Whites, on the other hand, were more likely to have higher levels of calcified plaque than blacks (45 percent vs. 26 percent).

Dr. Keith Ferdinand, chief science officer of the Association of Black Cardiologists, said it’s important to remember that CT angiography is not a perfect test, especially in patients with diabetes and obesity, which are common among blacks.

Ferdinand added that it’s difficult to pinpoint the specific effect that race has upon health — as this study attempts to do — considering how many differences that may exist between different racial groups.

The study appears in the journal Radiology.