Standard diabetes prevention advice (lose weight, exercise, eat better) is not getting through to - or even worse, is letting down - millions of North Americans. The proof is in shocking new statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 29 million Americans now have Type 2 diabetes, and 86 million more have pre-diabetes, a 10 percent jump in just two years.
That means more than 1 in every 11 Americans has Type 2 diabetes and is at increased risk for heart attack, strokes, vision loss, nerve damage, kidney failure, even amputation of toes, feet or legs, along with higher odds for depression, dental trouble, pregnancy complications and high vulnerability to the flu and pneumonia.
The 1 in 3 Americans with pre-diabetes face huge health risks, too: Having elevated blood sugar levels ups the chance for a heart attack or stroke, cognitive problems, depression and sexual problems. Plus, within three years, 15 percent to 30 percent of people with pre-diabetes will develop full-blown Type 2.
In the 1970s, about 4 million Americans had Type 2 diabetes. While the number of those with Type 1 diabetes (caused by an autoimmune attack that stops the body's production of insulin) has grown slightly, the prevalence of Type 2, caused by inactivity, being overweight, unhealthy food choices and perhaps a genetic predisposition, has soared.
You can turn this epidemic around by taking steps that will make your diabetes-stopping habits stick. Here are four "betcha didn't think of these" obstacles that may be what's keeping you from effectively applying the standard advice of "move more, eat better, lose weight."
Stress pumps up blood sugar. Learn to chill. Stress increases your blood sugar by switching on your body's "fight or flight" response and by making you reach for foods that widen your waistline (a diabetes risk) and mute your body's ability to use blood sugar. You can tame tension by getting plenty of sleep, learning a relaxation technique that works for you (deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation) and making time for friends and family.
Overcrowded days make healthy choices difficult. Do what you can.
Discouraged because you can't fit in a half-hour walk today? Don't be. Grab a 10-minute walk at lunchtime. No time to meditate before you rush off to a morning meeting? Use that 15-minute wait before your boss shows up to do a short, relaxing breathing exercise.
Gotta feed the family fast before another hectic evening of activities and homework? Hit the supermarket salad bar instead of the fast-food drive-thru.
Unhealthy food choices follow you through your day. Make over your whole food environment.
Start at home by banishing the Five Food Felons: trans and saturated fats, added sugars and syrups and refined grains. Replace those villains (all of which mess with healthy blood sugar levels) with 100 percent whole grains; good fats found in nuts, avocados and olive and canola oils; fruit; vegetables, especially leafy greens; and salmon or ocean trout. These good foods contain fiber, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that help regulate blood sugar and reduce the body-wide damage that diabetes and pre-diabetes can wreak.
Don't stop there. Pack healthy lunches for yourself and your kids. And keep healthy snacks on hand at work and in the car. We love baby carrots, a handful of nuts or a juicy piece of sun-ripened fruit, along with water or herbal tea.
Don't go it alone! Working with a diet and/or exercise buddy is a proven to help you get better results.
Sign up for diabetes education classes in your community. Got pre-diabetes? Check out the diabetes prevention programs (www.cdc.gov has lists) offered by YMCAs, hospitals, community centers and houses of worship.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Visit www.sharecare.com.