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This Common Habit Makes Your Diabetes Risk Skyrocket

These five things increase the chances of getting diabetes, says an expert. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Diabetes is a serious chronic disease that can cause heart attack, heart failure, stroke and other major health issues. It's defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as, "a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin." An estimated 10.5 percent of the U.S. population have a type of diabetes and the American Diabetes Association states that 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with diabetes this year. While there are certain factors that boost your chances of getting diabetes like genetics that you can't change, there are many lifestyle choices that increase your risk that can be stopped in order to help prevent diabetes. Julia Walker, a registered nurse with Paloma Health explains to Eat This, Not That! Health what common habits make your diabetes risk escalate. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Not Eating Breakfast

man eating breakfast

According to Walker, "There is always a lot of debate over whether or not skipping breakfast is good for your waistline. But most studies, including this large review from 2019, find that breakfast is a key meal that sets up your eating habits for the remainder of the day. People who do not eat breakfast are more prone to snacking, eat greater quantities of food, and in general, feel like they are entitled to choose foods that they enjoy more (i.e. sugary, fatty foods that our brains become trained to crave) because there is a notion that skipping breakfast is a healthy choice. Aside from these facts, we also know that a good quality breakfast with protein and healthy fat (like avocado and eggs) can help stabilize your blood sugar."


Not Staying Active

Employee sleeping with the face over the laptop with his angry boss watching back at office

Walker says, "Inactivity and sitting for over 30 minutes at a time are significant risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Not only does a sedentary lifestyle increase your risk for a higher than healthy BMI and waistline, but it also decreases insulin sensitivity. Thus, your cells will be less likely to take in glucose, and the extra blood sugar circulating in your bloodstream will start to damage blood vessels and organs. Intriguingly, some studies of healthy volunteers show that even with just 3 days of bed rest, insulin resistance begins to develop. And along with changes in insulin sensitivity, people also experienced increased total cholesterol and triglycerides, which shows how negative changes to your metabolic function also impact your cardiovascular health."

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Eating Processed Foods

woman holding bag of candy in a grocery store

"Many processed foods are high in refined sugars and unhealthy fats," says Walker. "We often consider processed foods to contain empty calories because they do not provide the right fuel to support our metabolic needs. Therefore, we over consume these foods in an attempt to feel full and consequently get too much sugar each day. Furthermore, in choosing overly processed foods, we often neglect to get enough healthy food, such as whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables. Therefore, we miss out on important nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals." 

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Not Getting Enough Sleep

tired woman working

Walker explains, "Research shows that not getting enough sleep each night may compromise your blood sugar levels. While we are consciously resting, our bodies are extremely busy repairing damaged tissues, forming memories, and performing metabolic functions. When we do not get enough sleep, our bodies cannot effectively metabolize glucose, and insulin sensitivity decreases. As a consequence of too little sleep, we see that people who are tired often do not make the best food choices, they have more awake time to eat, and they often don't make the best food choices when tired."

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Stressed businesswoman rubbing her eyes in the office.

"Stress alone likely does not cause diabetes, but in conjunction with other factors, it can certainly increase your risk for it," Walker states. "Evidence suggests that high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone made by our adrenal glands) may interfere with insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, causing them to make less insulin. With less insulin, the body is not able to process glucose, which can leave too much in the blood. While further studies are needed to examine how cortisol affects insulin-producing cells and insulin activity, there are also unhealthy habits that emerge when people are stressed, including overeating, eating high-calorie processed foods, and tapping into sugar for a quick, feel-good burst of energy."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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