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Dodging Diabetes

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oatmeal, nuts, milk, and apples

People who eat breakfast at least four days a week have a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes, along with a lower chance of obesity and high blood pressure. (Shutterstock)

S
helley Kubaney didn’t know what was wrong. For months, the 45-year-old oncology nurse from Fairview, Pennsylvania, had not been herself. For starters, she was exhausted. After a day at work it was all she could do to flop into bed where she slept for hours. In addition to relentless fatigue, she started to experience blurriness on the fringe of her vision. It got so bad that she could hardly drive at night when the glare of headlights compounded the problem.

After Kubaney made several trips to different doctors, her perplexed primary care physician ordered a full range of blood tests in February. The results delivered unexpected news—she had type 2 diabetes.

“I was completely stunned,” says Kubaney, a married mom of two teenagers. Stunned because she had no family history of the disease and she considered herself to be in decent shape and was not significantly overweight—all factors that typically play a role in developing type 2 diabetes. Yet as Kubaney quickly learned more about the disease and how it manifests over time, she became convinced that some simple lifestyle changes might have prevented or delayed the onset of full-blown diabetes.

“It was definitely a wakeup call,” she says. “I don’t really like meat and vegetables, so what does that leave? Carbs and sugar. I let myself cry for one night and then the next morning started a new way of eating and living.”

For many of us, diabetes lurks in the shadows, waiting to strike. The number of Americans with diabetes increased from 5.6 million in 1980 to 20.9 million in 2011, according to the CDC. Experts predict it will only get worse. The American Diabetes Association says 26 million adults and children are living with diabetes today. Another 79 million Americans are pre-diabetic, and likely headed for the full-blown disease unless they take swift action to change their health and nutrition habits.

It’s a fate worth avoiding.

Once diagnosed, your risk of heart attack and stroke jumps by more than 50 percent. You’re vulnerable to the leading cause of blindness among adults. And, if diabetes is not managed effectively, your day-to-day quality of life will decline as you grapple with fatigue, blurred vision, more-frequent infections, and slow-healing sores.

Yet, the latest research lays the foundation for a simple diabetes prevention plan that doesn’t require hours at the gym or drastic diet changes. The steps are easy–starting with a healthy breakfast and ending with a good night’s sleep. Taken together, the approach can go a long way toward avoiding diabetes or—if you already have it—managing the disease.

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