Three might be a crowd, but take notice: chances are good that if you are standing with two other people, one of the three of you has diabetes or prediabetes. Fast-forward to the year 2020, and it'll be two out of three with the condition.
Take 79 million adults living with prediabetes and 26 million living with diabetes in the U.S. and that adds up to a lot of doctor visits, strokes, heart attacks, adult blindness and non-trauma-related amputations. Trying to fix the complications takes a lot of money and time, yet 80 percent of type 2 diabetes is largely preventable through simple lifestyle changes.
OK, you might be saying, simple changes are not always easy to make. They take time and effort, after all.
So, instead, here are some simple ways to give up and join this epidemic:
- Keep your portions large.
- Stay away from vegetables and fruits.
- Pass up whole-grain foods in favor of processed grain products. Why eat brown rice when you can eat white?
- Don't eat the recommended 6 to 9 ounces of fish per week.
- Replace lean meats with those marbled with lots of flavorful fat. And make sure you leave the skin on your chicken or turkey.
- Eat full-fat yogurt and drink whole milk, soda and fruit punch. All that sugar tastes so good, and the fat that coats and lingers on your tongue—irresistible.
- Cook with solid fats, like butter, instead of liquid oils.
- Don't pass up dessert or snacks, but instead of fresh fruit or nuts, load up on cookies, chips, cake and full-fat ice cream.
- Look at dried beans (like kidney or pinto beans) or lentils as being "too healthy."
- Make breakfast a scone or hunk of coffee cake instead of pearled barley or oatmeal.
- Pass up sweet potatoes and eat white potatoes instead so that you can up your dose of high-glycemic foods.
- Indulge in alcohol. Women who drink just one glass or less a day lower their risk by 37 percent compared to women who drink more (the risk is reduced by 19 percent for men), so go ahead and drink to your heart's content.
- Don't watch your weight or strive to maintain a healthy weight. Join the third of obese Americans or the other third that is overweight.
- Don't monitor your children's eating habits, either. Then they can head toward diabetes, too. Studies show that children of obese people are 10 times as likely to be obese as the offspring of trim parents.
- Ignore symptoms like blurry vision, excessive thirst and frequent urination.
- Keep your blood pressure above 140/90 and triglycerides above 150 mg/dL and your HDL ('good') cholesterol low (below 50 mg/dL).
- If you have prediabetes, throw up your hands and invoke your belief in destiny. Ignore recent research that finds that some long-term damage to your body, especially your heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during the "pre" phase.
- Maintain a sedentary lifestyle. Don't exercise. Take the elevator and escalator rather than stairs whenever possible. Park close to the store or, better yet, take advantage of valet parking. Disregard the fact that just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity together with a 5 to 10 percent reduction in body weight reduces your risk by 58 percent.
- If you've had gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, don't worry. Once you've had it, you are more than seven times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as women who didn't have diabetes in pregnancy.
- And last: Write off the study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute that says you can lower your risk of developing diabetes by as much as 80 percent if you adhere to a combination of lifestyle changes including exercising more, lowering your alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, avoiding obesity and eating high-fiber, low-fat foods. After all, what do the scientists at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute know about these things?
Sheryl Kraft is a freelance journalist and essayist based in Connecticut. Sheryl's work has appeared in Prevention Magazine, healthywomen.org, JAMA, AARP, and Weight Watchers, among other publications.