Everyday Habits That Raise Your Risk of Diabetes

 To reap only the rewards of a daily tipple, follow the recommendation of the ADA and other health organizations and limit consumption to no more than one drink per day (for women) and a maximum of two per day (for men). While the links between drinking a moderate amount of alcohol and reducing your risk for diabetes are not definitive, “we do know that too many calories can lead to weight gain, and carrying excess weight is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes,” Maryniuk says. “It’s easy for the plan to have ‘one drink a day for my health’ to turn into two drinks — plus cheese and crackers and chips and dip. Before you know it, the possible health benefits have been wiped away with the additional calories and likely weight gain.” 

4. Skimping on shut-eye

It isn’t the occasional bout of insomnia that wreaks havoc here. It’s the night-after-night, chronic sleep deprivation that raises your risk for diabetes. How so? “With ongoing sleep loss, your hormone levels can get thrown out of balance,” Maryniuk say. As a result, “the body may release more stress hormones, such as cortisol, which push up blood sugar. In addition, less insulin is released after meals leading to higher blood glucose levels. These two factors over time increase blood glucose — and raise the risk of getting diabetes.”

That’s not all: Research shows that poor sleep (in terms of both quantity and quality) also increases your appetite and reduces your level of satiety, causing you to crave carbs and sweets in particular. Besides affecting insulin and blood sugar levels, that can lead to weight gain. 

5. Smoking

Add this to the long list of incentives to give up cigarettes for good: Smokers are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers, and heavy smokers have an even greater risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Experts can’t establish a direct cause-and-effect link, given how other risk factors — like stress, diet, levels of physical activity, and distribution of body fat — are hard to separate out. But a review of studies published in a 2019 issue of Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome suggests that cigarette smoking was the sole culprit in at least 25 million cases of diabetes worldwide.

Struggling to kick the habit? Talk to your doctor about what method makes sense for you. A 2020 report from the U.S. Surgeon General suggests that a combination of behavioral support, smoking cessation meds (like Chantix and Zyban) and nicotine replacement therapy (such as patches, lozenges, nasal spray and gum) may double your chances of quitting.

6. Eating processed foods

Highly processed foods — such as many cereals, deli meats and microwaveable dinners — have long been linked to an increased risk for things like cancer, depression and cardiovascular disease. Now, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that diabetes should be added to the list. Each 10 percent increase in the amount of ultraprocessed foods in participants’ diets was associated with a 15 percent higher risk of developing diabetes. At least part of the reason has to do with weight gain. Researchers found that those who consumed more processed foods tended to eat more calories overall, have lower quality diets and be more likely to be obese and inactive.

“Typically, more highly processed foods don’t provide the fullness that whole foods provide,” explains Kara Mitchell, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Duke Health and Fitness Center in Durham, North Carolina. “More highly processed foods tend to correlate with higher calorie intake. Too many calories leads to excess weight; excess weight leads to increased risk of insulin resistance.” 

An easy way to spot an ultra-processed food: Check the list of ingredients. If you see a long list of unpronounceable ingredients, that’s a tip-off.

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