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Adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes. And in conjunction with November as National Diabetes Month, it’s important to remember that lifestyle changes can help you avoid the disease – even if you have a family history of diabetes.

The key to avoiding diabetes as an adult is improving how your body uses insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar.

“There are many ways to improve your insulin’s function by changes in your lifestyle,” says Dr. Sharon Wasserstrom, a lifestyle medicine specialist at UCF Health. “If you help your insulin to function optimally you will lessen your chances of diabetes.”

Here are some tips for boosting your insulin sensitivity and lessening your risk of developing diabetes:

1. Be mindful of your diet

One of leading causes of adult-onset diabetes is being overweight or obese. Adopting a healthy diet can help prevent weight gain and other issues related to diabetes, such as high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Your diet should include:

– High-fiber foods (broccoli, banana, avocado, oats)
– Low-carb foods (lean meats, leafy vegetables, fish, eggs)
– Vitamin D (cheese, egg yolks, tuna, salmon)
– Lots of water

Your diet should not include:

– Foods/drinks with large amounts of added sugar (soda, candy, dairy desserts)
– Foods containing trans fats (crackers, cookies, pizza)
– Foods/drinks that are artificially flavored (flavored coffee, yogurt or cereal)
– Processed foods (processed cheese mixes, meats or TV dinners)
– White bread, pasta or rice

You should also control your portion sizes. The Society for Nutrition Education and behavior offers helpful serving size guidelines at

2. Exercise regularly

A healthy diet is only one piece of the puzzle. It’s equally important to stay active and exercise regularly. A sedentary lifestyle is another major risk factor for diabetes.

Health professionals recommend exercising for an hour a day. Whether you enjoy lifting weights, running, swimming or just taking a long walk after work, staying active is crucial for staying healthy.  Instead of spending so much time on the computer and watching TV, get up and move.

3. Avoid unhealthy habits

Smoking is known to raise blood sugars, so if you are a smoker, quit. Doing so can also reduce your risks for a plethora of other diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers. Limit your alcohol use since excessive drinking can lead to weight gain.

Making these healthy lifestyle choices now can help you take control of your life and avoid health complications like diabetes in the future. Prevention is always easier than treating disease. UCF Health offers lifestyle medicine services to help you get started.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus and in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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