Photo: Getty/Seamind Panadda
More than 100 million Americans have either diabetes or prediabetes, making it a leading cause of death in our country—but thankfully, with the right diet an exercise it can be treatable, and even reversible. While we all know being overweight is a major factor for developing diabetes, it's not the only one—and thin people can develop diabetes as well. Here are six lesser-known factors that can signal a higher chance for type 2 diabetes.
It's common knowledge family history is a risk factor for type 1 diabetes, but it also impacts our chances for developing type 2. Simply having a parent, brother or sister with a diabetes diagnosis increases your risk for developing it yourself.
However, a genetic disposition towards type 2 doesn't guarantee you will receive a diagnosis yourself—especially if you practice healthy lifestyle behaviors, like engaging in regular exercise and eating mostly whole foods. You just want to be more aware of the risk factors and your personal lifestyle choices if a close family member has been diagnosed.
There's a strong association between diabetes and contracting gum disease, but more and more research is showing this association is a two-way street. Serious gum disease actually has the potential to impact your blood glucose control, and therefore increase your risk of diabetes.
Oral health may be one of the last things you worry about when it comes to total body health, but not practicing proper oral hygiene can have some serious consequences. Not only can it impact your risk for diabetes, but also for heart disease, stroke and inflammation.
We all could use a little more physical activity in our lives—only about one in three Americans even meet basic CDC recommendations. Sedentary lifestyles are a major contributor to diabetes risk, and the CDC says even exercising twice a week still won't make the cut.
Now, we aren't talking about intense weight lifting sessions or running for an hour each day. Joining a friend on a walk, going swimming with your kids or trying Jazzercise at your local rec center all are great ways to get your heart pumping and stave off diabetes. You may even lose some weight and gain some energy along the way!
Related: Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
A 2017 study out of Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that more socially isolated individuals had a 112 percent higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes than those with a larger social schedule and network. Having less emotional and moral support increased risk for both men and women, while living alone only increased diabetes risk in men.
It's all too easy to spend a whole day alone, even while being surrounded by people. Scheduling more lunch dates, finding a walking buddy or joining an organization that shares your passions and interests could not only reduce your risk for diabetes but boost your mental health as well.
We will shout it from the rooftops as many times as we have to—cutting out gluten doesn't make you healthier, and there's no need to avoid if you do not have to! Research from the American Heart Association adds even more fuel to the fire, by saying those who follow low-gluten diets may be at greater risk for diabetes.
Researchers analyzed data from almost 200,000 participants from the Nurses' Health Study to discover those participants in the highest gluten-consumption percentile were 13 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who consumed the lowest amount. Now, that's not a license to eat all the pastries and biscuits your heart desires—opt for more nutritious gluten sources, like whole-wheat pasta and sourdough bread.
One of the main reasons researchers believe low-gluten diets could be contributing to diabetes risk is that low-gluten diets are also often low in fiber—which has a proven impact on diabetes. Eating more fiber leads to lower blood sugar levels, fasting blood glucose levels, and weight—plus an added bonus of boosting your gut health.
Also, foods where fiber is naturally occurring are some of the healthiest choices in the grocery store! Veggies, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds are all good sources of fiber, along with dozens of other essential nutrients. Learn about how to eat more fiber, here.
Most of these are lifestyle habits that are in our control, which is encouraging, but also scary. While we encourage you to brush daily, exercise at least four times a week and find time to spend with loved ones, we have tons of resources on how to clean up your diet to both stave off and manage diabetes.
Related: Healthy High-Fiber Recipes