Exercise regularly. “Exercise has an insulin-like effect,” says June Kloubec, PhD, an associate professor of exercise science at Bastyr University. Studies show exercise boosts expression of a gene called GLUT4, which helps pull sugar from blood into cells and trains the body to use that sugar more efficiently. It also helps build lean muscle mass, which is more insulin-responsive than fat tissue. A recent study found that doing four 30-minute workouts a week improved insulin sensitivity in both lean and obese teens, even without weight loss.
Sleep well. People with chronic insomnia or those who sleep five hours or less per night have the highest rates of diabetes compared to normal sleepers, according to a recent study in Diabetes Care. Sleep deprivation is believed to decrease levels of the hormone leptin, which makes us feel full, and increase the hormone ghrelin, which makes us feel hungry. So not only do we become too tired to exercise, we tend to eat too much and crave unhealthy food.
Keep your gums clean. Researchers at Columbia University followed 9,300 people for four years and found that those with moderate gum disease had more than twice the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than those with healthy gums. Bacterial infection can boost inflammation and impair insulin sensitivity.
Eat more fiber. Men who ate the least fiber (no more than 20 grams each day) had the greatest chance of developing diabetes in a recent British study of more than 3,000 individuals. Build your meals around fibrous foods such as beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, shooting for at least 25 grams per day.