Q & A Library
What is the proper lifestyle to avoid getting diabetes?
Answer (Published 4/30/2002)
I'm assuming that you refer to adult-onset, type 2 diabetes, the type that commonly affects individuals over 40 years of age and stems from factors that can be controlled - weight, diet, exercise. (It is becoming increasingly common in teenagers as the obesity epidemic progresses.) The other type, type 1 diabetes, usually begins in childhood or adolescence and is an autoimmune disorder that requires regular injections of insulin. An increasing number of experts think that juvenile diabetes might be triggered by exposure to cow's milk (or some other dietary element such as gluten) during an undefined critical period in infancy among genetically susceptible people.
Unlike juvenile diabetes, which is characterized by decreased production of insulin, adult-onset diabetes is the result of increased resistance to the effects of insulin. This form of the disease is correlated with being overweight and inactive; if you think you're at risk, preventing it means controlling your weight and getting sufficient physical exercise.
Instead of determining whether or not you're overweight by consulting actuarial tables based on gender and height, a more accurate method is to determine your body composition - your percentage of body fat. The least expensive way to do this is with electronic calipers that measure skin thickness at various sites on your body, but this method isn't all that accurate. Your physician can recommend an electronic body scan that gives more accurate results.
If you do have to lose weight, follow these recommendations:
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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