To Cut Diabetes Heart Risks, Diet and Exercise May Beat Drugs

A 5-step action plan for lowering heart risks associated with diabetes.

Video: What Is Diabetes?
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2. Think whole grains and whole foods. Following good nutrition habits is one of the best ways to control diabetes. You want to think high-quality carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains rather than highly processed foods (chips, pasta, cookies) that cause quick spikes in sugar levels. And you also want to include a lean protein choice (fish, tofu, turkey, or chicken breast) and a small amount of fat (nuts, olive oil, avocado) with every meal and snack to help slow digestion and keep sugar levels on an even keel.

[How to Incorporate Flexibility Into a Diabetes Diet]

3. Try the create-a-plate plan. Draw imaginary lines on your plate to divide it into three sections (two small, one large), then put salad greens, broccoli, or other nonstarchy vegetables onto the largest section of the plate; a small serving of starch (baked potato, rice, whole-wheat pasta) in one of the smaller sections, and a small serving of protein in the other.

4. Aim for modest weight loss. Most folks don't need to lose 40 or 50 pounds to help reverse diabetes. Just aiming for a 5 to 10 percent weight loss can make a huge difference in helping to control blood sugar levels, according to the American Diabetes Association.

5. Get moving, however you can. As with weight loss, you don't need to overdo it with the exercise to see some benefits. The biggest payoffs, in fact, come to those who are sedentary and simply get up and start walking around their neighborhood for 20 or 30 minutes a day, says John Morley, who is director of geriatrics at St. Louis University. "I literally write my patients a prescription to lift 5-pound weights in front of the TV or to always use the stairs instead of taking elevators or escalators," he says. "Every time they come in for a visit, I ask them if they're following my prescription, and I throw a tantrum if they're not. They actually respond to that."

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